The False Claims Act is a federal law that allows private citizens to report false claims made to the United States government, and to both prosecute those actions and share in any recovery obtained on behalf of the government. In addition, there are numerous state and local false claims act laws, including under Florida law. Funds paid under government contracts, including those related to national security, defense, and military procurement, as well as funds paid out under government programs including Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, federally insured loans and mortgages, transportation and research grants, agricultural programs, and disaster assistance, can all be the victims of false claims and the subject of false claims litigation.
In recent years, the federal government’s whistleblower programs have expanded to encourage the reporting of significant frauds on the government, taxpayers, and investors. The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 established the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Whistleblower Office. The IRS Whistleblower Office pays financial rewards to whistleblowers who report tax evasion by corporations and individuals. Tax whistleblowers do not need direct knowledge of the tax fraud or evasion, but they do need specific and credible evidence to initiate an IRS investigation. As the IRS notes on its website, “[t]he IRS is looking for solid information, not an ‘educated guess’ or unsupported speculation.” https://www.irs.gov/uac/Whistleblower-Informant-Award/. In 2014, the IRS Whistleblower Office paid over $52 million in rewards to whistleblowers.
As a result of the Dodd-Frank legislation, signed into law after the financial crises of the late 2000s, new programs for reporting fraudulent conduct, and for rewarding whistleblowers who do, have begun at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), 5 U.S.C. § 78U-6, and the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), 7 U.S.C. § 26. These programs provide substantial monetary rewards to whistleblowers who report original information to the SEC or CFTC if the information leads to a successful enforcement action. The types of cases of interest to these agencies include bribery and accounting violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), market manipulation, misrepresentation and omission regarding securities, theft of investor funds, violations of broker-dealer obligations, insider trading, and unlawful marketing and handling of investor funds. Other areas of enforcement by the SEC and CFTC are Ponzi, pyramid or other schemes, fraud schemes in connection with commodities, futures and swaps, front running, accounting fraud, theft and embezzlement, pump-and-dump schemes and stock manipulation, mutual fund fraud, and insider trading.
In addition, federal law contains protections for whistleblowers. For example, the False Claims Act contains an anti-retaliation provision that prohibits an employer from acting against a whistleblower employee. 31 U.S.C. §3730(h). That provision prohibits termination, suspension, demotion, harassment or any form of discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment. Employers violate the False Claims Act’s anti-retaliation provision face substantial punishment for actions taken against a whistleblower employee, including reinstatement with the same seniority status, twice the amount of back pay, plus interest, litigation costs and attorneys’ fees. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h)(2). Similarly, the law establishing the SEC and CFTC whistleblower programs provides for the anonymity of and confidentiality regarding whistleblowers, and prohibits retaliation against them. It too provides a cause of action against an employer who terminates, demotes, suspends, threatens or otherwise retaliates against a whistleblower.
One of the most important aspects of reporting a false claim to the government is that you have the right legal counsel. The trial lawyers at Buckner + Miles have decades of experience in this area. Two of the founding partners of Buckner + Miles spent years working as Assistant United States Attorneys in the Southern District of Florida, and prosecuted securities, commodities and tax frauds. We know the information most important to the government in evaluating these claims, and we can help you present the information you have in a way that is most likely to get the attention of government investigators. Utilizing this experience, Buckner + Miles attorneys in recent years successfully litigated complex qui tam suits against large hospitals and physician groups.
If you have or someone you know has information about fraud against the state or federal government, tax fraud or evasion, or securities or commodities fraud, contact the Florida qui tam attorneys of Buckner + Miles today by calling (305) 964-8003 for a free evaluation of your case. Or, you can fill out the contact form on our website, and someone from the will contact you.