Blowing the Whistle for Uncle Sam and Yourself

A single whistleblower and the right employment law attorney can make a world of difference.
31 U.S.C. §§ 3729 through 3733 comprise the federal False Claims Act. Violations include knowingly presenting to the federal government a false or fraudulent claim for payment, knowingly using a false record or statement to get a claim paid by the federal government, conspiring with others to get a false or fraudulent claim paid by the federal government, or knowingly using a false record or statement to conceal, avoid, or decrease an obligation to pay money or transmit property to the federal government. Under the False Claims Act, Qui Tam actions give private individuals or entities who have evidence of fraud against federal agencies or contracts the right to bring suit on behalf of the government.
The federal Act allows for civil penalties from $5,000 to $10,000 for each false claim brought, and triple any damages sustained by the public entity. A Qui Tam plaintiff under the federal Act can receive between 15% and 30% of the total amount recovered on behalf of the government, whether through settlement or through judgment.
The California False Claims Act, similarly, allows a Qui Tam whistleblower plaintiff to bring suit in favor of a public entity which is the victim of a false claim. Providing even more incentive than the federal Act, and subject to the approval of the court, as much as 50% of the total amount of money recovered on behalf of the government can in turn be awarded to the plaintiff in California. Gov. Code § 12651(a)(1), (2), (8) provides for the same civil penalties of up to $10,000 for each false claim, as well as triple any damages sustained by the public entity, and the recovery of litigation costs as well. Because of the lucrative nature of the claim, the ability to recover costs in a successful prosecution, and the complexity involved in prosecuting on behalf of the government, the right employment law attorney is crucial.
Under both Federal and California law, a Qui Tam plaintiff is required to notify the Attorney General, whether state or federal, so that they may decide whether to intervene and take over the Qui Tam prosecution. This does not mean that a whistleblower loses his or her right to recover any award, and in many cases a private plaintiff is allowed to continue prosecuting the action. It simply gives the federal or local authorities the option controlling the direction of the lawsuit, should they choose to. Unlike the federal False Claims Act, California’s False Claims Act allows the California Attorney General or local prosecutor to later intervene in a Qui Tam case up to the time of judgment, even if they previously declined to do so. Gov. Code § 1265(f)(2)(A).
Because of the statute of limitations under both the Federal Act and the California Act, acting quickly is critical. Under Federal law, the limitation period begins when material facts were “known or reasonably should have been known,” and it remains open for three years from that point. Debro v. L.A.Raiders, 92 Cal. App. 4th 940, 949 (1st Dist. 2001). Further, in no case may an action be filed more than six years after the violation in question. Id. Under California’s Act, the statute of limitations commences upon “discovery,” and it remains open for three years, but in no event more than ten years after the date of the violation in question. Gov. Code § 12654.
At Stephen Danz and Associates, we have multiple California employment attorneys with extensive experience in the area of Civil False Claims. Even more importantly, they are practiced and skilled in helping whistleblowers avoid retaliation, or even wrongful termination. Acting promptly is too important to overstate, and we would be happy to provide a free consultation to discus your circumstances and options.