The Federal False Claims Act permits a whistleblower or relator to file a qui tam lawsuit against a defendant for defrauding the federal government. The term “qui tam” refers to a Latin phrase, meaning that the person sues on behalf of himself and the government. A relator is the term for a plaintiff filing a qui tam action.
Qui tam lawsuits are filed under seal so that the government may conduct its own investigation without the defendant knowing of the filing. If the government joins the lawsuit, the case is unsealed and the government and relator jointly prosecute the case.
A qui tam action may only proceed via the first filer. Thus, timing is critical to filing and a case must be filed within six years of the alleged fraud. Often, qui tam actions have complicated venue issues and, of course, complexities in understanding the myriad fraud schemes. Due to various factors, these cases often take years and sometimes decades to resolve and may be incredibly experience. Thus, it is critical to engage experienced counsel that has worked closely with United States Attorney Office.