Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig has been representing whistleblowers in lawsuits under the federal whistleblower laws and state false claim act laws designed to recover taxpayer monies wrongly obtained by contractors through fraud on the Government.
The False Claims Act, Whistleblowers, and “Slapp” Suits
“Whistleblowers” are usually employees, the persons who call attention to unethical or illegal behavior in government or in the private sector. They “blow the whistle” on wrongdoing despite the probability of retaliation from the employer. At Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig, we fight aggressively on behalf of those who have been illegally terminated or who have otherwise suffered in retaliation for whistleblowing.
If you are a whistleblower and you need legal advice or legal protection, if you’ve been terminated as retaliation for whistleblowing, or if you simply need to learn more about whistleblowing and the law, speak to a whistleblower lawyer at Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig as soon as possible.
A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit intended to intimidate and silence critics and whistleblowers by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. The plaintiff in a typical SLAPP does not normally expect to win. The plaintiff’s goal is achieved if the defendant succumbs to intimidation, mounting legal costs, or exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP also sends a message to other potential critics and whistleblowers to remain quiet.
Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig understands the impact of SLAPP suits on whistleblowers and on everyone’s free speech rights. We stay abreast of the latest court rulings to gain every advantage in our anti-SLAPP work. Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig is considerably experienced at filing anti-SLAPP motions for businesses or individuals who are being sued for their whistleblowing activity. A successful anti-SLAPP motion dismisses the plaintiff’s lawsuit early, before substantial costs can be incurred.
In fact, simply filing an anti-SLAPP motion automatically stays the case so that no proceedings may move forward before the motion is heard. A defendant whose anti-SLAPP motion prevails is entitled to attorney’s fees and other legal expenses from the plaintiff. Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig has considerable experience succeeding on behalf of our clients in this complex field of law.
The False Claims Act imposes liability on persons and companies – usually contractors – who defraud governmental programs. The law includes a “qui tam” provision that allows whistleblowers who are not affiliated with the government – called “relators” by the law – to file whistleblowing actions on behalf of the government. Persons filing under the False Claims Act stand typically to receive about 15 to 25 percent of any recovered damages. If the government does not intervene in the case, the award is usually 25 to 30 percent of the recovery.
What Is a Qui Tam Legal Action?
Qui tam is an abbreviation from the Latin phrase meaning “as well for the king as for himself sues in this matter.” Qui tam litigation differs from other types of legal actions, such as those involving personal injuries, because the individual bringing the action is not the party who has directly been injured or harmed, but that individual is instead helping the government pursue fraud.
The whistleblower or “relator” making a qui tam claim files a civil lawsuit alleging a fraudulent act such as Medicare or Medicaid fraud, defense contractor fraud, or any fraud that financially impacts the government. However, tax frauds and securities law violations are usually handled differently. Most whistleblowing and most qui tam actions are directed against government contractors.
The whistleblower in a qui tam action must have special knowledge of fraud, called “independent knowledge,” and must be an “original” source. A private citizen files a qui tam lawsuit “under seal,” which means that it is kept from everyone – even from the accused party – except the government. This secrecy allows the Justice Department time to investigate the complaint.
This is where a whistleblower lawyer can genuinely help someone who’s blowing the whistle. Ultimately, a defendant who is found liable for fraud under the False Claims Act may have to pay an amount equal to three times the government’s losses in addition to other penalties for each false claim. The amount a whistleblower is awarded depends primarily on the quality of the case the whistleblower presents to the Justice Department and the legal skills of that whistleblower’s attorney.
Whistleblowers can face serious consequences for doing the right thing. They’re frequently terminated, demoted, or discriminated against more subtly. When this happens, Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig can help. If you haven’t blown the whistle yet but you have evidence of fraud, bribery, or any other criminal behavior by your employer, let us review your legal options and safeguard your rights. After we assess the details of your particular circumstance, our whistleblower attorneys can help you decide on your best course of action and your prospects for obtaining a cash reward.
Statutes of limitations vary depending on the type of whistleblower claim. For the False Claims Act, cases usually must be filed within six years of the violation. For violations of the various state and industry-specific whistleblower laws, claims must be reported between thirty days and six years after the violations, depending on the particular state and the statutes involved. Statutes of limitations are subject to change, so you should consult with a Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig as soon as you realize that you may have a claim.