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  • Writer's pictureJames A. Gustino

Protecting Yourself Under the False Claims Act: A Guide for Whistleblowers

Discovering that your employer is involved in submitting false claims to the government can be a distressing and intimidating situation. Fortunately, the False Claims Act (FCA) provides robust protections for employees who are brave enough to stand against fraud. Here’s a detailed guide on how you can protect yourself while taking a stand against corporate fraud under the FCA.


Understanding the False Claims Act

The False Claims Act is a federal law that helps the government combat fraud by providing financial incentives to individuals (commonly known as "whistleblowers") who report entities that are defrauding governmental programs. The Act includes provisions that specifically protect whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers.


Identifying Fraudulent Activities

Fraud under the FCA typically involves knowingly submitting false records or making false statements to obtain payment from government funds. Common examples include overcharging for goods or services, failing to comply with product standards, and using false records to justify payments. If you notice irregularities in billing practices, documentation, or compliance that suggest deliberate deception, these could potentially be signs of fraud.


Documentation and Evidence Gathering

Before you report the activity, it’s crucial to gather as much evidence as possible. Document everything related to the suspected fraud, including emails, internal reports, and financial statements. However, it’s important to collect this information legally and ethically—do not access files or areas outside your authorized scope of work.


Consulting with Legal Professionals

Once you have sufficient evidence, consult with an attorney who specializes in whistleblower cases. Legal experts can provide guidance on how to proceed safely under the protections of the FCA and can help you prepare your case effectively. They will also ensure that you comply with all legal requirements to qualify for whistleblower protections and potential rewards.


Filing a Qui Tam Lawsuit

With the help of your attorney, you may file a qui tam lawsuit on behalf of the government. This type of lawsuit remains under seal (secret) for a period of time while the government investigates your claims and decides whether to intervene. Your identity remains protected during this period.


Understanding Whistleblower Protections

The FCA specifically protects whistleblowers from retaliation, such as demotion, suspension, threats, harassment, and termination. If you experience retaliation, you can sue for remedies that may include reinstatement, double back pay, and compensation for any damages like litigation costs and attorney fees.


Rewards and Risks

Whistleblowers may receive a portion of any recovered money (typically between 15% and 30%). While the potential financial rewards can be substantial, whistleblowing can also have personal and professional repercussions. It's vital to weigh these factors and prepare mentally and financially for the process.


Conclusion

Blowing the whistle on fraudulent activities is a courageous but challenging path. Understanding your rights and protections under the False Claims Act, and taking careful, informed steps can make a significant difference in your personal safety and the outcome of your case. Remember, by coming forward, you are not only protecting yourself but also serving the public interest by helping to eliminate fraud against the government.

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