False Claims Act Qui Tam (Whistleblower) Representation
The Challenge of Blowing the Whistle on Fraud
In a very early case addressing the False Claims Act, one judge wrote that the Act:
[i]s intended to protect the treasury against the hungry and unscrupulous host that encompasses it on every side, and should be construed accordingly. It was passed upon the theory, based on experience as old as modern civilization, that one of the least expensive and most effective means of preventing frauds on the treasury is to make the perpetrators of them liable to actions by private persons acting, if you please, under the strong stimulus of personal ill will or the hope of gain. Prosecutions conducted by such means compare with the ordinary methods as the enterprising privateer does to the slow-going public vessel.
Over 120 years later, those words still ring true.
The role of whistleblower (or “relator”) in a qui tam case is not an easy one, however. Most whistleblowers endure months or years of isolation before they are compelled to act and bring a case. Once they file their case on behalf of the government, they typically must wait for many months or even several years for the government to investigate the claims, and an even longer period before the defendant is finally brought to justice.
Congress understood the difficulties facing whistleblowers, and so the False Claims Act offers a reward: between 15% and 30% of any recovery for the government (which can include three times the damages the government suffered from the fraud, plus a penalty of up to $11,000 per false claim submitted).
The Critical Role of Judgment
For whistleblowers, the good judgment of his or her attorney is critical to a successful outcome. But judgment in the unique context of a False Claims Act case can only be obtained through long experience in handling a wide variety of False Claims Act cases.
For eleven years, Ben Vernia investigated, intervened and litigated whistleblower cases for the U.S. Department of Justice. From 1994 to 2002, Ben was a Trial Attorney in the Fraud Section of the Civil Division, which handles every major qui tam case. As a Trial Attorney, he led investigations in dozens of qui tam suits. Most of these matters involved parallel criminal and civil proceedings; all were complex cases requiring the rapid assessment of both a difficult factual terrain and the key legal obligations imposed by regulations or government contracts.
In eight years of private practice after his government service, Ben has worked on cutting-edge, bet-the-company investigations and settlements, representing both whistleblowers and defendants in False Claims Act cases. He brings to clients a first-hand knowledge of the federal investigative process, and experience on dozens of criminal, civil and parallel cases.
Ben Vernia has worked on False Claims Act cases whose combined valued exceeds $2.5 billion - from small, $100,000 cases to the largest fraud recovery in U.S. history. In addition, he has conducted extensive investigations in a large number of additional matters. Ben has worked on matters involving the following federal agencies:
- The Department of Health and Human Services
- The Department of Defense
- The Department of State
- The Department of Education
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development
- The Department of Transportation
- The Department of Energy
- The Government Accountability Office
- The Export-Import Bank
He worked closely with these agencies’ Inspector General agents, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Health and Human Services, and every branch of the Armed Forces.
The depth and breadth of Ben’s False Claims Act experience has given him unparalleled insight into how False Claims Act whistleblower cases work – and why many fail. He understands what motivates government attorneys and agents, judges, and even defense counsel and executives who must decide whether to settle or fight a False Claims Act case.
Get Started Today
If you have knowledge of fraud or false statements in connection with a government program, you should have your case evaluated by an experienced False Claims Act attorney today. Time is not on your side: a strict statute of limitations (as short as six years) governs False Claims Act cases, and a “first-to-file” rule rewards only the first whistleblower to file a claim on behalf of the government.
Being a whistleblower will not be an easy journey. Every journey begins with a first step, however. For a whistleblower, that first step is telling what you know to an experienced False Claims Act lawyer.
- An insurance company whistleblower in a groundbreaking Medicare Part D case against the country's largest long-term care pharmacy.
- Government employee whistleblowers in a qui tam suit against an attorney and former Administrative Law Judge.
- The owners of a government security services firm against the previous owners, for violating the False Claims Act by continuing to exercise control over the company after they had been debarred from government contracting after pleading guilty to fraud.
Speeches and Publications
- "Whistleblowers face tough legal hurdles, but US Supreme Court may offer relief, says False Claims Act expert," Association of Certified Financial Crimes Specialists (podcast)
- www.falseclaimscounsel.com – A legal blog covering the False Claims Act and related statutes (2009-present)
- "False Claims Act Update," Covington & Burling LLP Podcasts (2008)
- "Negotiating Corporate Integrity Agreements in Case Settlements," Symposium on Health Care Fraud Investigations, American Conference Institute, Washington, DC (3/31/2008)