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April 07, 2020 | North Carolina Whistleblower

A Guide to the North Carolina False Claims Act

 

Did you witness, or know of, some suspicious activity at work? Maybe your employer is a large pharmaceutical company or university? Or you noticed that your employers are falsifying reports in order to receive money from the state or federal government? There are many reasons you may want to consider blowing the whistle, but many people have questions before they do.

Here are the 10 questions we most commonly hear about what laws are in place to protect whistleblowers like you:

1. Who can bring a whistleblower claim in North Carolina?

Anyone can bring a whistleblower claim on behalf of the NC government or other state entity under the North Carolina False Claims Act (NC FCA). Interestingly, in North Carolina, the one exception of who can bring a qui tam lawsuit is state employees who learned of the fraud through their employment with the state.

2. Will my identity be kept secret?

Whistleblowers’ identities are kept “under seal” while authorities investigate their claim, which means you would remain anonymous for as long as it takes for the state to conduct its investigations. Typically, qui tam claims are kept under seal for at least 120 days, but the government may extend that for as long as it needs to finish its investigation.

3. Where can I find and read the NC False Claims Act?

You can find the North Carolina False Claims Act (NC FCA) under Chapter 1, Article 51 of the North Carolina state statutes. See the full text of the statute here.

4. What is the Medicaid False Claims Act, and how is it different?

Before the NC False Claims Act, there was the NC Medical Assistance Provider False Claims Act (aka Medicaid FCA). The NC FCA did not replace the Medicaid FCA. The Medicaid FCA is still in effect, and is narrowly limited to fraudulent claims related to the Medicaid program.

5. Where can I find and read the federal False Claims Act?

The NC False Claims Act closely mirrors the federal False Claims Act, which can be found in 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729–3733. See it in sections here.

6. What is the difference between the federal and state FCA?

To report fraud that’s being committed against the NC government or state agency, the NC False Claims Act would apply. This usually entails things like false or fraudulent claims for payment to the state, state property that’s been misappropriated, etc.

7. What are defendants liable for if they are found fraudulent under the NC FCA?

The defendant may have to pay triple (aka “treble”) damages, the costs of the investigation, and attorney’s fees if the state finds that they have indeed committed fraud against the government. The defendant would then have to pay between $5,500 and $11,000 for EACH false claim.

The defendant may pay only double the damages if they report their fraudulent activity within 30 days, if they cooperate with the investigation, and if they are unaware of the pending investigation.

8. What could I recover if my whistleblower lawsuit is successful?

If the NC Attorney General decides to intervene in your case, you may receive 15-25% of what they recover from the defendant, plus attorney’s fees. If the NC Attorney General decides NOT to intervene in your case, and you end up succeeding in your claim against the defendant, you may receive 25-30% of the damages you recover.

9. I’m scared that my employer might fire me or try to remove me from my position. Am I protected against retaliation?

As a whistleblower, you are protected from retaliatory actions your employer might take against you. This would include actions like firing, threatening, suspending, harassing, or demoting you while in their employ.

If the employer is found to have retaliated against the employee, the employee may be reinstated to the same position, two times the amount of back pay owed to the employee plus interest, and compensation for any other special damages like litigation and attorneys’ fees.

10. How long do I have to file a whistleblower lawsuit in North Carolina?

The Statute of Limitations under the NC FCA allows for whistleblowers to file a claim three years from when the facts of the fraud were known, or reasonably should have been known. The maximum time you can file a whistleblower claim is ten years from when the fraud occurred.

There are even more nuances to the North Carolina False Claims Act that are not covered in this blog, but that an experienced qui tam lawyer can help guide you through. Whistleblower lawsuits are hardly cut-and-dried cases, especially if the perpetrator of the fraud has deep pockets. We’re here to try to root out companies who would take advantage of hard-earned taxpayer dollars to line their own pockets.

Carolina Whistleblower Attorneys: Our You-First Policy

If you have firsthand knowledge of fraud against the U.S. or state governments, you could potentially serve as a whistleblower and file a qui tam lawsuit.

Our You-First Policy means that your best interest is our primary concern. We handle all of our cases with the utmost discretion on behalf of our clients. Please don’t hesitate to contact us or call 1-888-292-8852 today.

About the Author

Gary Jackson is a highly-accomplished whistleblower, personal injury, consumer protection, and class actions attorney in North Carolina. He is a member of Taxpayers Against Fraud and is frequently asked to speak at education programs for lawyers throughout the country. Gary’s peers selected him for the “Best Lawyers in America” list in Litigation by Best Lawyers in America from 2020-2022.* North Carolina Super Lawyers has designated Gary to their “Super Lawyers” list every year from 2006-2021 for Class Actions and Mass Torts.* From 2013-2015, the same publication named him a “Top 100 Lawyer in North Carolina.”** *Attorney’s firm is the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. For standards of inclusion, visit bestlawyers.com. **Attorney’s firm is the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin. For standards of inclusion, visit superlawyers.com.

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Whistleblower Attorneys

If you’re wondering if it’s a good idea to speak with a whistleblower lawyer about what you know, let us set the record straight.

  • Corporate ethics hotlines can be risky and may lead to termination. If you’ve already done this, call us immediately.
  • Your coworkers could be aware of the fraud – or complicit in it – and you should not talk to them about it.
  • The first claim to be filed under the False Claims Act can proceed – if you’re not first, you’re at a serious disadvantage and may get nothing (another reason not to speak to your coworkers about it).
  • A confidential discussion costs you a few minutes, but could save you time, stress, and money.

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