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Qui tam whistleblower lawsuits under the False Claims Act

The lawyers at Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLP, have represented myriad clients over the years who have stepped forward on behalf of the federal government to spotlight fraud committed against the nation's taxpayers. Many of those clients have brought whistleblower claims under the federal False Claims Act, which has proven to be a most effective instrument for blunting illegal conduct and recouping unlawful gains collected by defendants.

The designation of "qui tam" is synonymous with whistleblower activities pursuant to that legislation, with that term understandably and quite likely needing a bit of elucidation to render it widely clear among the general public.

As noted by a commentator in a recent article discussing qui tam whistleblower suits and the False Claims Act, the term is Latin and of ancient vintage. It is applicable in instances where authorities believe important public objectives are promoted by the ability of private citizens to essentially bring a matter on behalf of the government.

That is certainly the case where a whistleblower -- often termed a "relator" under the False Claims Act -- has inside knowledge of fraudulent corporate conduct.

The above commentator cites a recent U.S. Supreme Court case that considered whistleblower litigation in a Medicare-related matter.

The litigation in question involved a payment request from a provider; the plaintiffs alleged wrongdoing under the False Claims Act because the actions of untrained medical personnel led to a personal injury.

Specifically, they maintained that any party submitting a Medicare billing implies that it is in full compliance with all government rules and regulations. When that is not the case, the plaintiffs argued (that is, when a party dies from substandard medical care), a subsequent Medicare billing related to that outcome is de facto a fraudulent payment request implicating the False Claims Act.

The court ruled that the act can only be invoked in so-called implied certification cases when a false representation is knowingly made by a defendant and is deemed "material."

That determination can get a bit complex, of course, given the subjectivity involved in assessing knowledge and materiality.

A qui tam action can be a powerful and effective tool for safeguarding the public against fraud, and a relator is obviously a central agent in promoting its aims.

Questions or concerns regarding fraud-related whistleblower litigation can be directed to an experienced attorney well versed in qui tam representation.

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