If you are aware of a company cheating the federal government, you may be able to file a whistleblower lawsuit and earn a substantial financial reward. Here are the 7 steps to follow in bringing a successful whistleblower lawsuit:

  1. Confirm that there is an actual “false claim”
  2. Collect some evidence if possible
  3. Hire an experienced whistleblower attorney
  4. File a whistleblower complaint under seal
  5. Offer to help the government with the investigation
  6. Be patient with the process
  7. Collect the largest possible rewardOur whistleblower attorneys have successfully represented clients in whistleblower matters across the United States.

Our firm has offices in Atlanta GA, Alexandria VA, and Washington DC, and we frequently travel to other federal courts to help whistleblowers recover rewards.

In this video, Page Pate explains the process of filing a whistleblower lawsuit and earning a reward.

1. Confirm that there is an actual “false claim”

Before pursuing a whistleblower lawsuit, you should try to verify that the federal government is actually being defrauded. A whistleblower can only recover a reward under the False Claims Act if he or she can point to a specific “false claim” made against the federal government. A “false claim” occurs when someone cheats the federal government out of money, either by submitting fraudulent invoices for payment or by not paying the government money that they owe.  Many states also provide whistleblower rewards for people who report fraud against a state agency. But a case involving billing fraud against a insurance company or some other private business, while it may be a crime, is not a “false claim” that will entitle you to a whistleblower award.

2. Collect some evidence if possible

It is always helpful when filing a whistleblower lawsuit if you have personal knowledge of the fraud and have some type of evidence to support your claim. If you know of documents or other evidence that would show how the federal government is being cheated, you should try to collect those and give them to your attorney. But be careful. You are not an agent of the government and you do not want to put yourself in a position where you are at risk. You also do not want to break any laws or any contract you may have with your employer. The best way to collect evidence to prove the fraud is to let an experienced attorney advise you.

Generally, the more evidence you have to prove the fraud, the better your claim will be. Your lawyer will likely use whatever evidence you have to prepare a draft of the lawsuit before meeting with the government to discuss the case. The meeting between your lawyer and the government is called a “disclosure meeting” and is the first step in getting the government interested in pursuing the case and giving you a whistleblower award.

3. Hire an experienced attorney who can file a whistleblower lawsuit

If you have information that a company is cheating the government, and you think you may be interested in pursuing a whistleblower lawsuit, it’s smart to go ahead and contact an attorney with experience in whistleblower lawsuits and the False Claims Act. An experienced attorney will be able to tell you whether you would have the type of information that would qualify you as a whistleblower under the law. A good attorney will also be able to give you an idea of how much money you may be able to recover for reporting the fraud. More importantly, an experienced whistleblower attorney will help you prepare and file a persuasive lawsuit and arrange for the government to review it.

Don’t let a concern about legal fees and costs keep you from contacting a lawyer immediately. If you hire our firm, you will not be asked to pay any costs up front. We will cover all the costs and expenses and only receive a fee if you are later given a monetary award by the government at the end of the case. Our fee will be based on a percentage of your award. If the lawsuit is unsuccessful, then you do not owe us anything for our time or the expenses we have incurred in helping you pursue the claim.

4. File a whistleblower lawsuit under seal

After we meet with the government to discuss the case and get their input, we file a qui tam lawsuit in the appropriate federal district court. The complaint in a qui tam lawsuit is filed under seal, meaning that the company committing the fraud will not be alerted to the lawsuit directly and the government will be served with the complaint instead. The False Claims Act provides the government with a sixty-day period to conduct its investigation before serving the complaint on the defendant. This period can be lengthened, and often is, by requesting extensions from the court. In most cases, the investigation will take anywhere from a few months to a few years.

During its investigation, the government will gather and analyze evidence and may conduct interviews with employees of the corporate defendant. Though the company will not have been served and the case will remain under seal, it may become aware that an investigation is being conducted. During the investigation, neither you nor your attorney will be able to discuss the case with anyone but the government. Improper communications could harm the government’s investigation and result in the case being dismissed.

5. Offer to help the government with the investigation

After the complaint is filed, the government will hopefully investigate the case and ultimately decide whether or not to accept it (or “intervene”). This is a crucial step in a whistleblower lawsuit. The chances of recovery are usually improved if the government decides to intervene and directly go after the company who committed the fraud.

Your attorney has an important role in this process. In addition to making sure the lawsuit is rock-solid and supported by credible evidence, a whistleblower lawyer should maintain close contact with the government attorneys working on the case to offer advice and assistance during the investigation. While the government runs the show, a good whistleblower lawyer knows how to stay involved without stepping on anyone’s toes. We think our firm navigates this process exceptionally well and has earned the trust and respect of the government attorneys and agents who investigate whistleblower complaints. And it’s clear that our relationship with the government benefits our clients when it comes time to decide on the amount of a whistleblower award.

Of course, a whistleblower may be able to continue to pursue the case even if the government decides not to intervene. The decision on whether to move forward without the government’s involvement is a decision that can only be made by an experienced whistleblower attorney after a hard look at all the evidence in the case. In some cases, the whistleblower attorney may move the case forward and the government will later decide to step in and help.
When and if the government decides to intervene affects the amount of any whistleblower award. As a general rule, the more work you and your attorney do, the more money you will make if the case is successfully resolved.

6. Be patient with the whistleblower lawsuit process

A whistleblower lawsuit can take a long time to complete. It is not uncommon for a case to be pending “under seal” for several years while the government investigates the case. If the case is not settled at the time the government decides to intervene, then the case will move into the litigation process. That process can also take a year or more to reach a settlement or trial. In our experience, the average whistleblower case takes about three or four years to resolve. Of course, some cases are resolved much faster, and some take a little longer.

We understand that the time it takes to resolve a whistleblower lawsuit can be very frustrating, especially for the whistleblower. The whistleblower has to keep everything secret and not discuss the case with anyone other than the lawyers while the case is under seal. The whistleblower may also be facing difficulties at work or financial problems if not employed.

Unfortunately, because the government is running the investigation while the complaint remains sealed, there is very little the whistleblower and his or her attorney can do to speed up the process. Be prepared for numerous delays, extensions and pushed-back deadlines. They are all common in whistleblower litigation.

7. Collect the largest possible reward

Hopefully, your patience and your attorney’s diligence will pay off. If a whistleblower lawsuit is settled or won at trial, the whistleblower is entitled to a share of the money the government is able to recover.

The money the government recovers in these cases can be very significant. The law provides that a company who has cheated the government can be held responsible for three times the amount of money they took or failed to pay, plus hefty fines. At the end of the day, the government may end up collecting millions of dollars. In some cases, the recovery can exceed a billion dollars.

In cases where the government has intervened, the whistleblower will be entitled to 15-25% of the amount recovered. The exact share will be negotiated between the whistleblower attorney and the government. A number of factors, such as the value of the whistleblower’s unique contribution to the overall case, will be taken into consideration. If no amount can be agreed on, the court will determine the appropriate share. In successful cases where the government does not intervene, the whistleblower will generally recover 25-30% of the actual damages awarded.

If you think you may have information relating to fraud against the federal government, contact our firm to see if you have a good whistleblower case.

“I am still thanking God every day for Page Pate and Jess Johnson and their belief in me”  

Page Pate and his partner Jess Johnson are top notch! Both are brilliant attorneys with incredible integrity. Page represented me in a successful 5 year long Whistleblower False Claims Act Case. Despite his busy schedule and prestigious reputation as one of the best Federal Trial Lawyers in the US, Page was unbelievably polite, respectful and took the time to listen, explain the process in its entirety and answer any questions. Page saw the potential of my case where the others didn’t. He and Jess worked very long hours preparing the claim, researching, making phone calls and attending meetings with me to assist the DOJ. I am still thanking God every day for Page Pate and Jess Johnson and their belief in me and their ability to make a $25M case out of what other expert Qui Tam attorneys saw as impossible.

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