Filing a False Claims Act Qui Tam Case Under Seal
The False Claims Act requires that a qui tam action must be filed under seal and remain seal for at least 60 days. This procedure enables the government to investigate the matter, so that it may decide whether to take over the relator’s action or to instead allow the relator to litigate the action in the government’s place. The purpose of the seal provision is to avoid alerting defendants to a pending federal criminal investigation. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co. v. US, 137 S. Ct. 436 (2016).
The “sealing period, in conjunction with the requirement that the government, but not the defendants, be served, was ‘intended to allow the Government an adequate opportunity to fully evaluate the private enforcement suit and determine both if that suit involves matters the Government is already investigating and whether it is in the Government’s interest to intervene and take over the civil action.” United States ex rel. Pilon v. Martin Marietta Corporation, 60 F.3d 995, 998-99 (quoting S. Rep. No. 345, 99th Cong., 2d Sess. 24, reprinted in 1986 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5266, 5289).
Failure to file under seal could potentially jeopardize a relator’s ability recover a whistleblower bounty, but the False Claims Act does not require automatic dismissal for a seal violation.
A False Claims Act retaliation claim can also be filed under seal (in conjunction with a qui tam action).
To initiate a False Claims Act qui tam action, the relator (whistleblower) must serve a copy of the qui tam complaint along with a “written disclosure of substantially all material evidence and information the [relator] possesses” on the Government. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2). The complaint remains under seal for at least 60 days, and shall not be served on the defendant. During this 60-day period, the Government is charged with investigating the allegations and “may, for good cause shown, move the court for extensions of the time during which the complaint remains under seal.” 31 U.S.C. §§ 3730(b)(2), (3).
Before the 60-day period (or any extensions obtained) expire, the Government shall either “(A) proceed with the action, in which case the action shall be conducted by the Government; or (B) notify the court that it declines to take over the action, in which case the person bringing the action shall have the right to conduct the action.” 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(4).
Experienced False Claims Act Qui Tam Whistleblower Attorneys
The experienced 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 free preliminary consultation, 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.
In addition, we have substantial experience representing whistleblowers under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) and enforcing the WPA, the law that the NDAA whistleblower provisions are based upon. Firm Principal Jason Zuckerman served in a senior position at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel overseeing investigations of whistleblower retaliation claims and whistleblower disclosures.
- Dallas Hammer has extensive experience representing whistleblowers at government contractors in retaliation and rewards claims and has written extensively about cybersecurity whistleblowing. He was selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America® in the category of employment law in 2021 and 2022.
- Described by the National Law Journal as a “leading whistleblower attorney,” founding Principal Jason Zuckerman has established precedent under a wide range of whistleblower protection laws and obtained substantial compensation for his clients and recoveries for the government in whistleblower rewards and whistleblower retaliation cases. He served on the Department of Labor’s Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the Secretary of Labor to improve OSHA’s administration of federal whistleblower protection laws. Zuckerman also served as Senior Legal Advisor to the Special Counsel at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the federal agency charged with protecting whistleblowers in the federal government. At OSC, he oversaw investigations of whistleblower claims and obtained corrective action or relief for whistleblowers.
- Matt Stock is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner and former KPMG external auditor. As an auditor, Stock developed expertise in financial statement analysis and internal controls testing and fraud recognition. He uses his auditing experience to help whistleblowers investigate and disclose complex financial frauds to the government.
- Zuckerman was recognized by Washingtonian magazine as a “Top Whistleblower Lawyer” (2020, 2018, 2017, 2015, 2009, and 2007), selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America® in the category of employment law (2011-2021) and in SuperLawyers in the category of labor and employment law (2012 and 2015-2021), is rated 10 out of 10 by Avvo, based largely on client reviews, and is rated AV Preeminent® by Martindale-Hubbell based on peer reviews
- We have published extensively on whistleblower rights and protections, and speak nationwide at seminars and continuing legal education conferences. We blog about new developments under whistleblower retaliation and rewards laws at the Whistleblower Protection Law and SEC Awards Blog, and in 2019, the National Law Review awarded Zuckerman its “Go-To Thought Leadership Award” for his analysis of developments in whistleblower law.
- Our attorneys have been quoted by and published articles in leading business, accounting, and legal periodicals, including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNBC, MarketWatch, Vox, Accounting Today, Going Concern, Law360 – Expert Analysis, Investopedia, The National Law Review, inSecurities, Government Accountability Project, S&P Global Market Intelligence, Risk & Compliance Magazine, The D&O Diary, The Compliance and Ethics Blog, Compliance Week and other printed and electronic media.
Zuckerman Law has written extensively about whistleblower protections for employees of government contractors and grantees, including the following articles and blog posts:
- Boosting Contractor Employee Whistleblower Protections, Law 360 (December 2016)
- New Tools to Combat Whistleblower Retaliation, Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund Quarterly Review, Vol. 57 (October 2010)
- GAO Report Calls for Improvements in Government Contractor Whistleblower Protections
- False Claims Act Retaliation Decision Underscores Broad Scope of FCA Whistleblower Protection
- NDAA Provides Robust Whistleblower Protection
- FAR Amendment Bars Agencies from Subsidizing Whistleblower Retaliation
- NDAA Contractor Whistleblower Protection Law Highly Effective in Rooting Out Fraud
- Congress Enacts Anti-Gag Provision in Cromnibus Spending Bill
- Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Zuckerman Will Speak About False Claims Act Litigation at Taxpayers Against Fraud Conference
- Whistleblower Protections Under the Whistleblower Protection Act, Practical Law (October 2016)
- Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Zuckerman Quoted in National Law Journal
- Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Zuckerman Quoted About Federal Employee Whistleblower Rights
- Washington Post Quotes Whistleblower Attorney Jason Zuckerman About Chilling Effect of Insider Threat Program
- How to foster a more ethical culture
- Whistleblower Lawyer Jason Zuckerman Quoted About MacLean Whistleblower Protection Act Case
- Trump Questionnaire Raises Concerns About Retaliation Against Energy Department Staff
- CFPB official wants to silence a whistleblower before he can talk to Congress