Qui tam relator definition
A qui tam relator is an individual who exposes fraudulent activities committed against the government by filing a lawsuit under the False Claims Act (FCA). Otherwise known as whistleblowers, they act on behalf of the federal and state governments and may be entitled to a portion of any financial recovery.
Who Can Be a Qui Tam Relator?
A common question that arises when discussing qui tam lawsuits under the FCA is: who can be a qui tam relator?
A qui tam relator can be any individual or entity that has knowledge of fraudulent activities perpetrated against the government. This can include, but is not limited to:
- Current or former employees: Employees who have witnessed or have evidence of their organization’s fraudulent practices are often the most common qui tam relators. They may have direct access to critical information and documentation that can substantiate their allegations.
- Competitors: In some cases, a competitor may have evidence of another company’s fraudulent activities, such as underbidding on government contracts or engaging in illegal kickback schemes. Competitors can act as relators to expose this fraud and create a level playing field within the industry.
- Contractors and subcontractors: Individuals or companies working with an organization engaged in fraud against the government may also become qui tam relators. They may have insider knowledge of fraudulent practices due to their professional relationship with the offending government contractor.
- Patients or healthcare professionals: In healthcare fraud whistleblower cases, patients or healthcare professionals may become qui tam relators if they uncover evidence of fraudulent billing practices, unnecessary medical procedures, false records, or other activities that defraud government healthcare programs.
- Concerned citizens: In some instances, private citizens who do not have a direct connection to the fraudulent activity but have acquired information about the fraud can serve as qui tam relators. Their information must be non-public, however, and cannot be derived from publicly available sources such as news reports or ongoing government investigations.
There are some restrictions on who can be a qui tam relator worth noting, though. For instance, individuals who have been convicted of criminal conduct related to the fraud they are reporting may be barred from acting as relators.
Potential qui tam relators should consult with an experienced whistleblower attorney to determine their eligibility and understand the risks and rewards associated with filing a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act.
The False Claims Act and its Qui Tam Provisions
Brief History of the FCA
The federal False Claims Act, also known as the “Lincoln Law,” was enacted during the Civil War to combat fraud perpetrated by suppliers to the U.S. government. The FCA has undergone several amendments, with the most significant changes occurring in 1986, which strengthened the federal False Claims Act and encouraged more whistleblowers to come forward.
Qui Tam Provisions: Purpose and Benefits
The qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act serve to incentivize private citizens to report fraud against the government through whistleblower awards. By allowing whistleblowers to share in the financial recovery, the qui tam provisions create a powerful deterrent against fraudulent activities.
Qui tam lawsuits help the government recover billions of dollars lost to fraud each year. The federal government in turn pays out hundreds of millions of dollars to the whistleblowers who bring those lawsuits.
So to revisit our original question: what is a qui tam relator? Put another way, a qui tam relator is a crucial contributor to the government’s fight against fraud and efforts to save taxpayer dollars.
How the FCA Protects Whistleblowers
The False Claims Act includes anti-retaliation protections for whistleblowers. Employees who file or participate in a qui tam lawsuit are protected from being fired, demoted, harassed, or otherwise discriminated against by their employer in response to lawful conduct undertaken in furtherance of a qui tam case.
If retaliation occurs, whistleblowers may be entitled to:
- double back-pay; and
- additional damages, including legal fees.
These whistleblower protections encourage individuals to confidently report fraud.
The Role of a Qui Tam Relator
Qui tam relators undertake a critical role in the process of holding those committing fraud to justice. Their role spans from initiating the lawsuit itself to assisting with the government’s investigation resulting from their information.
Initiating a Qui Tam Lawsuit
A qui tam relator initiates by submitting a confidential disclosure statement detailing the evidence of fraud to the government. Then, the relator commences a lawsuit by filing a complaint under seal with a federal district court. “Under seal” means that the allegations are kept confidential and only the government is aware of the filing.
The government then investigates the allegations and decides whether to intervene in the qui tam case. The False Claims Act states that a case will remain under seal for 60 days while the government investigates the allegations, but courts often extend this timeframe to give the government sufficient time to complete its investigation.
If the government declines to intervene, the relator may still proceed with the lawsuit independently.
Providing Evidence of Fraud
A critical aspect of a qui tam relator’s role is providing substantive evidence of fraud against the government. This may include documentation, such as contracts, invoices, or internal communications, as well as firsthand knowledge of the fraudulent activities.
The more comprehensive and credible the evidence a whistleblower can provide, the stronger the case will be.
Collaborating with Government Attorneys
Once a qui tam action is filed, the relator and their whistleblower attorneys work closely with the government agency (or agencies) pursuing the case. This collaboration can involve sharing evidence, reviewing documents, and assisting with legal strategies to ensure the best possible outcome for the case.
Filing a Qui Tam Lawsuit: Key Steps and Requirements
So you become aware of a false claim and want to bring a whistleblower case. What should you do?
As a preliminary step, the first thing you should do is speak with an experienced whistleblower attorney. Qui tam lawsuits can be complicated and have their own specific requirements.
After you find a False Claims Act attorney, if you and your whistleblower attorney decide to proceed with a qui tam lawsuit, the following steps and requirements must be met:
- Prepare a Disclosure Statement: Compile a detailed account of the evidence, including relevant documentation and any other information that supports your allegations.
- File a Complaint Under Seal: Your False Claims Act attorney will draft a complaint and file it under seal in federal court, keeping it confidential while the government investigates your allegations.
- Notify the Government: The government must be served with the complaint and provided with a copy of the disclosure statement.
- Government Investigation: The government will investigate the allegations and decide whether to intervene in the case. If the government declines to intervene, you and your attorney may proceed with the lawsuit independently.
Keep in mind that the government’s investigation will likely take at least a year, but could take several years to complete.
Confidential Consultation with a Whistleblower Attorney
If you believe you have evidence of fraud against the government, the first step is to consult with an experienced whistleblower attorney who specializes in qui tam cases. During this confidential consultation, the attorney will:
- Evaluate the strength of your evidence and the merits of your case
- Explain the basics of a qui tam action, including your rights and potential rewards
- Discuss potential risks and challenges to pursuing your case
- Develop a strategy for moving forward with your case
Contact us for a free confidential assessment of whether you might have a potential claim that could result in a whistleblower award:
- Contact us for a free confidential consultation
- Call us at (617) 823-3217
FAQs about qui tam cases
What is a qui tam relator in healthcare?
A qui tam relator in healthcare is an individual, often an employee or insider, who becomes aware of fraudulent behavior and files a whistleblower lawsuit on the government’s behalf under the False Claims Act.
A qui tam relator is a particularly crucial player in the efforts to expose healthcare fraud, as over $1.7 billion of the $2.2 billion recovered last fiscal year related to matters involving the healthcare industry.
Relevant fraudulent behavior can include submitting false claims to government healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, or engaging in other practices that defraud the government.
Qui tam pronunciation
The term “qui tam” is derived from a Latin phrase, and its correct pronunciation can be a bit tricky for English speakers. “Qui tam” is pronounced as “kee tam,” with the first word “qui” rhyming with “tee” and the second word “tam” pronounced as it appears.
The full Latin phrase “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur” translates to “he who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself.”