Whistleblower cases may only make news headlines once every few years, but the truth is that these matters are frequent and ongoing despite the lack of media attention. The US Department of Justice, Civil Division reports that it recovered $3.054 billion in 2019 in claims arising under the Federal False Claims Act (FFCA), one of the primary whistleblower statutes at the federal level. However, these laws also award those to bring fraud to the attention of the federal government. “Relators,” as whistleblowers are known, pocketed almost $272 million for their efforts in investigating fraud and notifying the relevant government agencies.
You may qualify for legal protection and compensation as a government fraud whistleblower, though it is essential to consult with a Georgia whistleblower lawyer before moving forward. It may also be useful to review some key facts as you weigh your options in this type of case.
- There is no single law covering whistleblower rights and protections. Besides the FCA, there are many other federal statutes that apply to whistleblower cases. At the state level, the Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act (GTPFCA) protects your rights and provides options for compensation. The law covers every industry that does business with state or local governments, imposing liability on any person or entity that submits a false claim. Civil penalties against an offending party range from $5,500-$11,000 per claim, plus damages, costs, and legal fees. As a whistleblower who uncovers fraud, you may be entitled to 15-25 percent of the total recovery.
- Whistleblower laws cover a wide range of conduct. Federal statutes and the GTPFCA apply in the most basic circumstances of government fraud, when a company submits a phony request for payment to a government agency. However, the GTPFCA also extends to:
- Making or using a fake document to support a false claim;
- Delivering to a government body less property or money than promised; and,
- Reverse false claims, where an entity conceals an obligation to pay – such as making false statements to lower tax liability.
- Breaking the law can break your whistleblower case. Your own investigation may play a key role in a claim, but you cannot engage in criminal activity to pursue a whistleblower case. You put your rights at risk in the fraud claim, but you could also be arrested and convicted of a crime if you illegally disclose confidential information.
- You need to understand and consider remaining confidential. Whistleblower laws are designed to protect the identity of a person who raises a claim, since you might be the target of unlawful retaliation. Rather than subject yourself to adverse treatment, it is often advisable – and it is your right – to remain confidential.
- Deadlines mean everything in whistleblower cases. There are statutes of limitations that apply to whistleblower claims, usually measured by when the false claim was submitted OR when the government should have been aware of it. Under the GTPFCA, you have six years to take action based upon the date of the fraud and three years if the relevant agency should have known about it. In any case, no cause of action can be filed more than 10 years after the date of the violation.
Discuss Your Options with a Georgia Whistleblower Attorney
These facts about whistleblower claims may help you understand the basics, but there are many other statutes, rules, and legal details that impact your case. For this reason, you should retain experienced counsel to advocate on your behalf. To learn more about your rights and protections as a whistleblower, please contact the Vaughn Law Firm. You can reach our Decatur, GA office to set up a free consultation by calling 877.615.9495 or visiting our website.