To Midwesterners “qui tam” like it might be an Asian noodle dish. While it’s true, qui tam is a foreign language, it’s not Asian, it’s Latin.
Qui tam is short for “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur.” Quite a mouthful, but it basically means the one who brings an action for the king as well as for oneself. Qui tam cases involve a person who blows the whistle and alerts the authorities about fraud that is going on, usually fraud against the federal government.
Typical kinds of qui tam cases
- Medicare– In many qui tam cases healthcare providers have been found guilty of over-charging patients, charging for services that were not medially necessary, charging for services the patient did not receive, bill padding and kickbacks. A company may also be guilty of not documenting services or charging for services that are not covered. Other companies such as pharmaceutical suppliers, have also been found guilty. A worker at any level within the healthcare field may alert the government that their employer is not following the rules. The errors may be intentional or not. Medicare fraud can be done by a sole practitioner (such as a chiropractor) or a large institution (such as a hospital).
- Defense contractor fraud– Most of us have heard at least one story about over charging on government projects- about the $1,678.61 that was charged for a tiny $7.71 part. Typically this type of fraud involves product substitution, cross charging and failure to comply with specifications.
- Financial industry fraud– Most of these cases involve FHA mortgages, municipal transactions and yield burning (when municipalities refinance their debt at a lower rate).
- General Services Administration (GSA) contracts– Companies that bid on or receive government contracts must offer the government the same or better terms as they give their commercial clients. They must also use only products from approved or “eligible” countries.
What is the False Claims Act?
The federal False Claims Act (FCA) becomes relevant when any person or company knowingly submits a false bill, invoice or claim to the federal government. Also called the Lincoln Law, the False Claims Act was enacted on March 2, 1863 and has been updated several times.
Why workers should blow the whistle
There are three very compelling reasons for someone to “blow the whistle” when it comes to scamming the government.
- First, it is the right thing to do. Our government is essentially us- of the people, by the people, for the people. When a business screws the government, that business is picking our pockets too.
- Qui tam investigations are done in secret. No one will know that the company is being audited. If there is no fraud, there is no case and life goes on as usual.
- If there is fraud, then qui tam allows the whistleblower to get a portion (usually about 15–25 percent) of any recovered damages.
Workers who know or suspect that their company is defrauding the government should speak to an attorney who handles qui tam cases to assess the situation and the next steps. All communication regarding qui tam cases is held in strict confidence.