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What is the first-to-file bar in False Claims Act qui tam cases?


False Claims Act First-to-File Bar

The first-to-file bar prohibits a whistleblower from bringing suit based on a fraud already disclosed through identified public channels, unless the whistleblower is “an original source of the information.” Pursuant to the first-to-file bar, “[w]hen a person brings an action under [the False Claims Act], no person other than the Government may intervene or bring a related action based on the facts underlying the pending action.” 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(5). The first-to-file bar encourages prompt filing.

  • Where two complaints allege “all the essential facts” of the underlying fraud, then the first complaint will typically preclude the later complaint, even if the later-in-time complaint incorporates different details.
  • Where a second complaint provides additional information that suggests a broader scope of fraud than the initial complaint, the second complaint might be barred where the government knows the essential facts of a fraudulent scheme because it has sufficient information to discover related frauds.
  • To bar later-filed qui tam actions, the allegedly first-filed qui tam complaint must not itself be jurisdictionally or otherwise barred, e.g., if the first-filed complaint fails to plead fraud with particularity, as required by Rule 9(b).
  • The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that the appropriate reference point for a first-to-file analysis is the set of facts in existence at the time that the FCA action under review is commenced. Facts that may arise after the commencement of a relator’s action, such as the dismissals of earlier-filed, related actions pending at the time the relator brought his or her action, do not factor into this analysis.

The first-to-file bar underscores the importance of reporting fraud promptly and seeking counsel to evaluate potential claims.

Contact our Experienced False Claims Act Qui Tam Whistleblower Attorneys

The experienced False Claims Act whistleblower attorneys at leading whistleblower law firm Zuckerman Law have substantial experience representing whistleblowers disclosing fraud and other wrongdoing at government contractors and grantees.  To schedule a confidential consultation with our qui tam whistleblower lawyers, click here or call us at 202-262-8959.

Our experience includes:

  • Representing qui tam relators in False Claims Act actions concerning off-label marketing, false billing, and education loan fraud (inflating entitlement to interest rate subsidies).
  • Representing whistleblowers in NDAA retaliation claims before the Department of Defense, and Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice Offices of Inspectors General.
  • Litigating False Claims Act retaliation cases.
  • Representing whistleblowers disclosing fraud on the government in Congressional investigations.
  • Training judges, senior Office of Inspector General officials, and federal law enforcement about whistleblower protections.

Before hiring a lawyer for a False Claims Act whistleblower case, assess the lawyer’s reputation, prior experience representing whistleblowers, knowledge of whistleblower laws and prior results.  And consider the experience of other whistleblowers working with that attorney.  See our client testimonials by clicking here.

Zuckerman Law has written extensively about whistleblower protections for employees of government contractors and grantees, including the following articles and blog posts:


SEC whistleblower rules


Jason Zuckerman, Principal of Zuckerman Law, litigates whistleblower retaliation, qui tam, wrongful discharge, and other employment-related claims. He is rated 10 out of 10 by Avvo, was recognized by Washingtonian magazine as a “Top Whistleblower Lawyer” in 2015 and selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America® and in SuperLawyers.