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Navigating Whistleblower Protections and Safeguarding Taxpayer Dollars

In 2022, over $2.2 billion of US public funds were recovered from false claims, with 86% of these funds attributed to whistleblowers. Whistleblowing plays a central role in uncovering and prosecuting the fraudulent use of public funds and is on the rise, as 2022 witnessed a near-record number of new matters brought to trial. There is a growing realization of the value of whistleblowing, not only to protect public funds and hold fraudsters accountable but also as a means of private financial gain.

Qui Tam: The Whistleblower’s Weapon

The False Claims Act (FCA) serves to protect the government from fraud, with qui tam serving as its primary enforcement mechanism. The qui tam provision allows private citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of the government against individuals or companies that have submitted false claims. These false claims can include:

  • Claims for goods and services that were not provided or were provided at an inflated price.
  • Using false or misleading information or failing to disclose information to obtain a government contract.
  • Diverting government funds for improper personal gain.

Local Impact: Qui Tam Cases in Georgia

In the State of Georgia, we’ve seen members of the public use the qui tam provision to bring several companies to trial in recent years. One of the most notable cases involves healthcare employee Tammy Allison, who initiated qui tam lawsuits against two former employers, Fresenius Medical Care and DaVita HealthCare Partners, for false Medicare claims related to dialysis services. These cases led to settlements of $450 million and $21 million, respectively.

Recent qui tam cases in Georgia have primarily focused on the healthcare sector, particularly on fraud relating to Medicare and Medicaid programs. However, several areas historically have been subject to a high number of qui tam cases, including:

  • Defense contractors overcharging for goods or services or failing to meet contract specifications.
  • Government procurement offices purchasing from vendors in exchange for personal kickbacks.
  • Tax fraud, where companies or individuals file false tax returns, underreport income, overstate deductions, or claim false credits.
  • Environmental fraud, where companies violate environmental regulations, falsify emissions data, dispose of hazardous waste improperly, or fail to comply with environmental permits.

What Do You Stand to Gain from Qui Tam?

The potential rewards from initiating a qui tam lawsuit are substantial. Whistleblowers are entitled to between 15-25 percent of the total recovery. For former Georgia healthcare worker Tammy Allison, favorable settlements in the aforementioned cases entitled her to a minimum of $67 million and $3 million, respectively.

The benefits are not only financial. Perpetrators of fraud against the government impose a significant burden on the US taxpayer. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that in 2022, US government agencies lost at least $247 billion through improper payments, equivalent to 3.6% of the US federal budget for 2022 — a substantial amount for individual taxpayers.

Many potential whistleblowers often don’t realize that they are substantially protected during a qui tam action. The FCA prevents whistleblowers from being fired or demoted by their employers during an action. Other forms of retaliation, such as workplace bullying, are also prohibited under the FCA and could result in claims for reimbursement from the whistleblower.

The Need for Competent Legal Representation

Despite the protections offered to whistleblowers under the FCA, taking on a qui tam lawsuit is typically a complex and lengthy process. Whistleblowers can expect a qui tam lawsuit to take between two to five years from initial filing to settlement, and it’s not uncommon for the process to take longer. For former Georgia healthcare worker Tammy Allison, her qui tam action against Fresenius Medical Care took almost ten years to settle.

Any qui tam lawsuit will require meticulous documentation, a deep understanding of state and federal law, and the ability to gather evidence that holds up in court.

While whistleblowers stand to gain substantially from a qui tam lawsuit, those without competent legal representation risk not only lowering their chances of a successful settlement but also opening themselves up to potential repercussions from the accused. Well-prepared defense lawyers can exploit any weaknesses in a claim, especially when a whistleblower’s representation lacks experience in qui tam actions.

If you’re considering initiating a qui tam action, contact a legal representative who can help you succeed.

Looking for a qui tam attorney in Georgia? At Lourie, Chance, Forlines, Carter & King, PC, we have extensive experience representing whistleblowers in Georgia qui tam lawsuits. Among our successful actions is representing a whistleblower against Allergan Inc. for its marketing of Botox, resulting in a combined settlement of $600 million, of which $225 million related to breaches of the FCA.

At Lourie, Chance, Forlines, Carter & King, PC, we not only help you win at trial, but we also provide the guidance and support you need to navigate what can be a complex and emotionally challenging process.

Act Now! Under the FCA, qui tam actions must be filed promptly: within six years from the date of the violation, or within three years from when the government should reasonably have become aware of the violation. Under some circumstances, it’s possible to file an action up to ten years after the violation.

At Lourie, Chance, Forlines, Carter & King, PC, we believe the law should serve everyone and provide justice, not just the rich and powerful. Our attorneys are dedicated to the idea that your case is worthy of the time and consideration of the justice system, especially when your fight is about safeguarding the public interest.

Let us be your qui tam attorney in Georgia — contact our team today.