The Important Role of The Relator
Qui tam laws are written to allow a private citizen to “blow the whistle” on fraud against the government. Because the government does not have the resources to find and fight fraud on its own, it relies on the efforts of whistleblowers, or “relators,” who have first-hand knowledge of the fraud and misconduct.
The reliance on whistleblowers is well-founded. For example, between 2000 and 2006, the Department of Justice recovered $12 billion in civil fraud recoveries ($12,093,022,897). Whistleblowers were responsible for $7 billion ($7,972,051,660), or 65.9% of these recoveries.
Congress has recognized the vital role played by whistleblowers in fighting fraud against the government. For this reason, the False Claims Act provides incentives to the relator who has the courage to blow the whistle on fraud. For example, under the False Claims Act, the relator may receive a reward of 15-25% of the government’s recovery, if the government intervenes in the qui tam action. Even if the government declines to intervene and the whistleblower chooses to proceed with the action, the relator may receive a reward of 25-30% of the recovery.
The False Claims Act also protects whistleblowers from suffering certain repercussions for bringing a qui tam action. The initial complaint is filed under seal with the government, and strict confidentiality is maintained until the claim is either resolved through government intervention or the claim is not accepted by the government, in which case the whistleblower has the option of proceeding with an unsealed, publicized qui tam action or letting the claim drop without disclosing the whistleblower’s identity. If a whistleblower’s identity is discovered and an employer retaliates by wrongfully firing, demoting, suspending or threatening the whistleblower for filing a legitimate qui tam action, the False Claims Act provides for reinstatement, double back pay, compensatory damages, and litigation costs including attorney’s fees among other remedies.