April 04, 2019 | Construction Fraud
What Are the Potential Rewards of a Successful Whistleblower Lawsuit?
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “If you see something, say something.” While it’s often used for neighborhood watch programs, it can also apply to your workplace, especially if you know your employer is engaged in suspicious activities involving contracts with the government, like:
- Defense contractor fraud, which may include lying about the efficacy of a product sold to the military. A recent example would be the 3M earplugs that were found to cause hearing loss and tinnitus to military personnel who used them.4
- Medicare or Medicaid fraud such as performing inappropriate or unnecessary medical procedures in order to increase Medicare reimbursement.
- Any healthcare fraud. Upcoding, for example, is frequently reported. Upcoding refers to inflating bills by using diagnostic billing codes that suggest a more expensive illness or treatment.
- Construction and contractor fraud. This might include false certification that a contract falls within certain guidelines (for example, minority or veteran contracts).
- Student loan fraud. With student debt at nearly $1.5 trillion, some schools have found ways to exploit students’ dreams of getting an education.
- Academic research fraud. The U.S. government provides billions of dollars to academic institutions in order to support numerous research and scientific initiatives. Yet these grants are sometimes abused. Just recently, for example, Duke University was required to pay the government $112.5 million to settle an allegation that they submitted falsified research data for more than 5-7 years in order to win more grant money. This lawsuit was brought by a Duke lab analyst, who subsequently was awarded $33.7 million from the recovery.1,3
Sadly, this, by no means, is an exclusive list of the ways people and businesses have found to defraud the government. That’s why the government may generously reward those who come forward to report instances of fraud that result in successful claims.
Whistleblower lawsuits explained
Bringing a whistleblower claim on behalf of the government is known as a qui tam lawsuit. These are brought under the federal False Claims Act, which rewards those who help the government recover money – i.e. taxpayer money, your money – lost due to fraud.
Although they are the most common, qui tam lawsuits aren’t the only whistleblower actions you can take. You can also report major tax fraud to the IRS and potentially share in any recovery, or report wrongdoing to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) or Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and potentially get a share of any fines they impose on the wrongdoer.
In 2018, the Department of Justice received a jaw-dropping $2.8 billion in judgments and settlements from cases involving fraud and false claims against the government. Over $2.1 billion resulted from qui tam lawsuits. Whistleblowers received $301 million for doing the right thing and bringing the fraudulent activity to the attention of the government.1
How are whistleblower rewards calculated?
The federal False Claims Act and North Carolina False Claims Act both impose treble (or triple) damages on culpable defendants.
- With a federal claim, you, the whistleblower, could receive anywhere from 15 to 25% of all money recovered by the government, if the government intervenes in the case and the case is successful.
- With state claims, a successful relation can receive up to 25% of any recovery if the Attorney General gets involved and the case is successful.
- If the government doesn’t join your qui tam lawsuit and you proceed on your own with a lawyer, you could potentially receive up to 30% of the government’s recovery if your case succeeds.
How much you ultimately may receive depends on many factors, including:
- The quality of the information you provided. The more detailed and extensive the information, the more your potential reward.
- How much assistance you provide in the case
- Whether the case involves a significant public safety issue
- And various other factors
Whistleblower rewards are important in several ways:
- They represent government recognition of the public service the whistleblower provided on behalf of the American taxpayer
- They acknowledge that blowing the whistle can sometimes be as difficult as it is heroic
- They encourage more people to speak out rather than stay quiet out of fear
- They endeavor to keep entities accountable for any wrongdoing
Contact Carolina Whistleblower Attorneys
If you see something, let us help you say something! Our Carolina Whistleblower Attorneys encourage you to come forward, and are available for a free and confidential conversation regarding a potential whistleblower/qui tam claim. Let’s talk. For more information, contact us or call 1-888-292-8852.
Contact the Carolina
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.