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Qui Tam (Whistleblower)

National Qui Tam Lawyers

At common law, qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur (he who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself) was a writ which allowed ordinary people to obtain part of the money the state collected in fines levied for environmental pollution and other wrongful conduct. Modern qui tam (kee-tam) cases are much the same. Most of these claims involved the federal False Claims Act.

Either the U.S. Attorney’s Office or a private New York qui tam lawyer can initiate such actions. The government wins about 90 percent of the qui tam cases it brings. But the private qui tam success rate is less than 20 percent. That’s partially because the government claims the best, and most winnable, qui tam cases for itself. So, private qui tam cases are difficult to successfully resolve. The low private sector victory rate also speaks to the relatively low quality of many New York qui tam lawyers.

At Napoli Shkolnik, our experienced New York qui tam lawyers routinely handle these cases not only in the Empire State, but on a nationwide basis as well. We know the procedural nuances in these cases. That knowledge allows us to aggressively stand up for you and avoid frustrating delays. Some whistleblower attorneys have a few qualities necessary to get the job done right. At Napoli Shkolnik, we have them all.

The False Claims Act: A Closer Look

Congress passed the False Claims Act in 1863. President Abraham Lincoln pressed hard for the law, which is also known as the Lincoln Law. Lincoln saw it as an innovative way to curb fraudulent practices, specifically companies selling substandard goods to the Union army. Originally, relators (people who brought qui tam cases) received 50 percent of the funds the wrongdoer paid the government.

Many years later, a World War II era Congress gutted the False Claims Act. In 1943, lawmakers slashed the available whistleblower awards and created procedural hurdles. These changes made it hard for New York qui tam lawyers to bring cases, and even harder for them to win fair compensation.

In 1986, as part of President Ronald Reagan’s privatization initiatives, Congress revamped the FCA yet again. This version of the law closely resembles the one in place today. Some highlights include:

  • Rewards of up to 30 percent,
  • Available treble damages,
  • Whistleblower employment protections,
  • Elimination of some procedural hurdles, and
  • A lower standard of proof.

Because of these changes, over 9,000 qui tam actions have saved taxpayers some $55 billion. 

What to Expect in a Qui Tam Whistleblower Claim

Whistleblower awards are carefully calculated to encourage people to come forward and also prevent frivolous actions. So, the amount of the award varies depending on several factors, such as:

  • Quality of information provided,
  • Extent of whistlebower’s cooperation in any official investigation, and
  • Health and safety issues, if any, involved.

Frequently, New York qui tam lawyers join a wrongful termination or other such claim with the qui tam claim. This connection could be a problem, because these cases have some procedural differences. If these variations are not fully accounted for, a judge could throw one or both claims out of court.

Additionally, there are some agency-specific nuances. For example, SEC whistleblowers might not be entitled to job protection. However, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) whistleblower law, which was part of the Dodd-Frank Act, does contain such provisions. Inexperienced attorneys might not know about important distinctions such as this one.

Generally, whistleblower job protection is not limited to termination. It also includes a wide range of retaliatory acts, such as:

  • Demotion,
  • Reassignment,
  • Sidelining,
  • Loss of seniority, and
  • Blackballing former employees.

Compensation in unlawful retaliation matters usually includes lost back pay, a reasonable amount of front pay (lost future pay), and/or reinstatement. Perhaps more importantly, relators receive judicial declarations that what the company did was wrong.

Choosing the Right New York Qui Tam Lawyer

Generally, attorneys do not charge upfront legal fees or costs in these matters. However, qui tam claims usually involve significant out-of-pocket expenses. Your attorney must have the resources to front these expenses.

Speaking of resources, these cases are usually too big for one or two lawyers to handle. Frequently, a team of attorneys and support staff must stand up for the realtor. Otherwise, the large corporate defendant usually prevails.

Additionally, make sure your New York qui tam lawyer is not simply looking for a referral fee and has successfully handled these cases in the past.

Your lawyer should be familiar with venue choices. Federal qui tam matters can be brought in most federal courts. But not all judges have the same level of expertise in these matters. Furthermore, many venues are highly inconvenient for relators.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if you feel you have a case, speak to a qui tam lawyer immediately. If another whistleblower comes forward first, or if the information becomes publicly available, you may be ineligible for reward and/or job protection.

Whistleblowers make our world a better place, so they deserve protection and reward. For a free consultation with an experienced qui tam lawyer, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

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