- Why Do False Claims Laws Matter?
- What’s a “False” Claim?
- Who Can File an FCA Case?
- How are Qui Tam Cases Filed?
- Why Are Whistleblower Cases Filed Under Seal?
- How Long Do Cases Stay Under Seal?
- What Happens While a Case is Under Seal?
- What Happens Once the Government Finishes Its Investigation?
- What’s the Difference Between “Intervened” and “Declined” Cases?
- What Happens if the Government Declines to Intervene?
- When Does the Defendant Find Out That I’m The Whistleblower?
- What are the Penalties for FCA Violations?
- If My Case is Successful, What’s My Share of the Recovery?
- I’d Like to Read the Federal False Claims Act for Myself, Can I Get a Copy?
- Which States Have False Claims Laws?
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.
At the beginning, the very existence of a qui tam case remains a secret even from the defendant (the company being sued). Copies of the complaint are given only to the United States Department of Justice and the local United States Attorney, in the case of the federal False Claims Act, or the State Attorney General, in the case of a state false claims lawsuit, and to the assigned judge. This secrecy is a unique feature of whistleblower cases. It is also vitally important: if a whistleblower violates (or “breaches) the seal, his or her case will be dismissed. A breach of secrecy by the whistleblower does not prevent the government from proceeding with the case, but it will prevent the continuing involvement of the whistleblower as a relator.
Along with the complaint, whistleblowers must also provide a “written disclosure” statement, presenting “substantially all material evidence and information” they have concerning their allegations. Written disclosure statements, which usually analyze both the facts and the law, are not filed with the court. They are only provided to the Justice Department or state Attorney General. A whistleblower attorney’s skill in making the disclosure statement a clear and compelling presentation can play a major role in positioning your case to be one in which the government will intervene.