The law does more than protect whistleblowers who report wrongdoing. In many cases, whistleblowers are entitled to a bounty. Most whistleblower cases are based on a common law writ called qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur (he who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself). Today’s qui tam cases usually involve the federal False Claims Act (FCA).
Legally, whistleblowers can either join an Attorney General’s lawsuit or bring their own actions. Frequently, the government only takes cases that involve an eye-popping amount of money and are easy to win. So, these victims often count on Chicago employment lawyers to protect them and their families in these situations.
Foundation of a Qui Tam Claim
Congress initially passed the FCA during the Civil War. Lawmakers hoped it would encourage whistleblowers to come forward and expose corrupt contractors involved in the Union war effort. The most recent amendments came in 1986, at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s privatization initiatives. Modern qui tam claimants are entitled to the following:
- Financial Rewards: Most claimants receive 30% of the fine amount or the money the government saved as a result of the whistleblower’s action. The exact amount usually depends on the factors outlined below. Treble (triple) damages are also available in some cases.
- Employment Protections: The FCA protects whistleblowers from most adverse actions, such as demotion, reassignment, termination, or the refusal to give a good job reference. Procedurally, attorneys usually need only show a temporal relationship between the protected activity and the retaliation (e.g,. press release on Monday and adverse action on Tuesday) for these protections to apply.
The modern FCA also lowers the burden of proof in some other areas and gives claimants additional procedural shortcuts. Since the 80s, almost 10,000 qui tam claims have saved taxpayers about $50 billion.
What is Involved in a Qui Tam Case?
The aforementioned damage awards are designed to encourage meritorious claims and discourage frivolous claims. That is a rather small target. Some factors to consider include:
- Nature of the information provided (i.e., does it protect health or safety),
- Uniqueness and quality of the information provided, and
- Whistleblower’s cooperation in a subsequent investigation.
These claims are often complex. Frequently, attorneys file qui tam claims along with wrongful termination claims. These actions have different procedural rules. The whistleblower standards are different for some federal agencies, most notably the Securities and Exchange Commission.
As a result, your attorney should be highly experienced in these matters. Some lawyers take qui tam cases just so they can refer them to other lawyers. Other attorneys lack the resources to see these cases through to the end.
Contact an Experienced Lawyer
Qui tam claims to protect whistleblowers and expose wrongdoing. For a free consultation with an experienced whistleblower lawyer in Chicago, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. We routinely handle these matters in Cook County and nearby jurisdictions.