Whistleblower Frequently Asked Questions

Whistleblower (“Qui Tam”) Law FAQ

1. Why do false claims laws matter?

The United States government and the 50 states are the world’s largest purchasers of goods and services — by far— collectively spending billions of dollars every year. That also makes our state and federal governments the world’s largest targets for fraud. Read more.

2. What’s A “False” Claim?

State and federal false claims acts outlaw “false” or “fraudulent” claims against the government. But what’s “false” or “fraudulent”? Read more.

3. Who Can File An FCA Case?

In the language of False Claims Act law, whistleblowers who file cases are called “relators” (rather than “plaintiffs”), and the cases they file are called “qui tam” lawsuits. Read more.

4. How are Qui Tam Cases Filed?

Unlike virtually all other lawsuits, whistleblower (“qui tam”) cases start out as secret proceedings. FCA whistleblower complaints must be filed with the court “in camera and under seal,” which means that the complaint, and all other records relating to the case, are placed on a confidential docket that is not part of the public court files. Read more.

5. Why are Whistleblower Cases Filed Under Seal?

Whistleblower suits are filed under seal to give the government time to investigate the allegations without the defendant’s knowledge. Read more.

6. How Long Do Cases Stay Under Seal?

Under the federal False Claims Act, the government always has at least sixty days to conduct its investigation. In practice, the government frequently requests, and courts usually grant, multiple extensions of the “seal period.” Read more.

7. What Happens While A Case Is Under Seal?

Generally speaking, after receiving a whistleblower’s complaint and written disclosure statement, the government takes two steps. It interviews the whistleblower and it contacts the government agency or department that is alleged to have been defrauded to gather more information. Read more.

8. What Happens Once The Government Finishes Its Investigation?

At the conclusion of the government’s investigation, or sooner if the court orders, the federal False Claims Act specifies that the Department of Justice has three options, namely to: (a) “intervene” in one or more counts of the complaint, and formally become  a party to the case in order to actively participate in prosecuting it; Read more.

9. What’s The Difference Between “Intervened” and “Declined” Cases?

Although qui tam cases are filed by whistleblowers, the government always remains the “real party in interest,” the government always gets the lion’s share of any recovery, and the settlement of any qui tam case always requires the government’s approval. Read more.

10. What Happens If The Government Declines To Intervene?

Historically, the United States has intervened in only a small percentage of whistleblower cases. One thing that differentiates some whistleblower counsel from others is their relative rates of success in having the government intervene in their clients’ cases. Read more.

11. When Does the Defendant Find Out That I’m the Whistleblower?

Companies under investigation generally know they are under investigation. Read more.

12. What Are the Penalties for FCA Violations?

Penalties for FCA violations are steep. Read more.

13. If My Case Is Successful, What’s My Share of the Recovery?

The False Claims Act stipulates that successful whistleblowers are entitled to receive between 15 and 25 percent of the funds recovered through a settlement or a trial if the government has intervened in the case and 25 to 30 percent if the government has not intervened. Read more.

14. I’d like to read the federal False Claims Act For Myself. Can I get a copy?

The text of the federal False Claims Act is reproduced here: Read more.

15. Which States Have False Claims Laws?

States that have enacted False Claims Acts are colored in red in the map below. States colored grey rather than red, have no state False Claims Act. Read more.