Wisconsin Whistleblower Attorneys in Milwaukee & MadisonProtecting Wisconsin Workers Reporting Employer Fraud from Retaliation
The government has increasingly relied on whistleblowers to protect taxpayers from fraud. Whistleblower protections are a key check and balance included in many state and federal regulations, as many times only employees inside private businesses can know when fraud is occurring. An individual can “blow the whistle” on any number of illegal actions committed by an employer where certain state and federal laws protect and sometimes reward those employees willing to come forward to bring their employer’s wrongdoing to light. One such law, which seeks to ferret out business and individuals who misappropriate government funds, is the Federal False Claims Act, also frequently referred to as a qui tam lawsuit. Qui tam means a “lawsuit brought.”
Common Types of Fraud Claims
The State and Federal False Claims Acts protect employees who have information about fraud committed by employers against the state or federal government. A company commits fraud when it submits false payment claims to the government in a variety of industries including health care, defense contracting, or the financial industry. Fraud can include falsely billing the government, over-representing the amount of a delivered product, off-label marketing of drugs, or understating an obligation to the government.
How Qui Tam Claims Work
False Claims lawsuits are referred to as Qui Tam lawsuits (or “a lawsuit on behalf of the government”). The private party who files the suit, with the help of an attorney, is referred to as the relator. The suit is filed confidentially, or under seal, so only the relator and the government know about it. After the suit is filed, the Department of Justice, in conjunction with the local District Attorney, has 60 days to investigate and decide whether to intervene. The whistleblower, with the assistance of his or her lawyer, works to provide the Department of Justice with information regarding fraud.
If the government intervenes, it takes over the case and continues the investigation and litigation with continued assistance from the relator. If the government wins or settles, the relator receives between 15% and 25% of the government’s award, depending on his/her involvement in the case. If the government does not intervene, the relator may choose to continue to litigate the case. In the event of a win, the relator may recover up to 30% of the government’s award, although the court will reduce the relator’s award if he or she was involved in the improper activities.
An Example Whistleblower Case
Here’s how a typical Qui Tam case might play out…
Larry knows his employer, WidgetWorks, has been cheating the government by selling a lower grade (less expensive) product than contracted for. Larry is offended by this, but feels uncomfortable confronting his employer for fear of losing his job. Larry contacts an attorney, discusses his case, and decides to file a Qui Tam suit. He and his attorney (the relator) file the suit and wait to hear back from the Department of Justice. In the meantime, Larry continues with his job, and WidgetWorks does not know anything about the suit. In this case, the Government decides to take the suit on and works with Larry and his attorney to complete the lawsuit.
Potential Whistleblowers Should Contact an Attorney
When a current or former employee has information about fraud committed by his or her employer, he or she needs an experienced attorney to help them through the process. If you or someone you know has information about fraudulent billing of the government in any form or industry, contact Hawks Quindel, S.C. to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your claim.