Reporting an organization to the government for fraud can be incredibly intimidating. Individuals can feel quite small compared to a larger organization or corporation. But no company, no matter the size, is above the law.
The False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to file qui tam lawsuits through which they can receive a percentage of the damages recovered. And because those found guilty of defrauding the government may be required to pay three times the amount of damages sustained by the government, the payout for whistleblowers can be substantial.
A useful tool for combatting fraud
Reports from the U.S. Department of Justice indicate that $5.6 billion was recovered by the federal government from civil cases file under the False Claims Act in 2021. More than $5 billion of the settlements and judgments from 2021 relate to the health care industry. Government contractors were also involved in several settlements. Some of the most notable qui tam lawsuits that year included:
- A $50 million payout from Navistar Defense LLC involving claims that they overcharged the U.S. for suspension systems in armored vehicles used by the military
- A $27 million payout from St. Jude Medical Inc. related to the implanting of heart devices with defective batteries into patients
- A $25 million settlement paid by Insitu, Inc. for allegedly overcharging the U.S. for drones
- A $22 million settlement paid by the University of Miami for allegations of unethical billing practices and the ordering of unnecessary testing for patients
Sometimes, even religious organizations are face liability for fraudulent behavior, as illustrated by the November 2021 ruling against the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The organization paid a $1 million settlement after a lawsuit alleged that they made fraudulent claims to acquire FEMA funds after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
It takes courage to come forward
While standing up against individuals or corporations that are in a position of power can be scary, doing so is important. It protects the financial resources provided by taxpayers and can ultimately ensure the safety of others. The federal government created the Whistleblower Protection Program to protect whistleblowers from retaliation. This assures that your efforts to do the right thing will not meet backlash from the organization reported.