It doesn't matter if it's through overcharging, deception about products or services, falsified records, or something else, if you know that your company is defrauding the government in some way, you are in a tough position. You may have talked to your employer already and been rebuffed. You may be unsure of how to proceed or even about what options are available. If this sounds familiar to you, here is what you should understand:
- What you need to know about the allegations is simple: When it comes to the specifics of your allegations, you need to know three things: (1) that the government has somehow been defrauded, (2) whether you're an employee or a contractor, or just someone who knows about it, and (3) that the defrauding entity knows what it is doing and has willfully not reported it.
- Understand financial limits: In the False Claims Act area, there is not a specific dollar amount that justifies a lawsuit. There are cases settled for as low as $40,000 or as high as $3 billion. That said, the government is much more likely to take a case worth tens of millions of dollars than a case worth tens of thousands of dollars because, for the government, it becomes a cost-benefit analysis (i.e., spend the time and money to pursue a case for $30,000 or do the same thing on a bigger scale). So while there is no defined limit, you can assume that the larger the case, the more interested the government will be. With IRS cases, however - those involving tax fraud - there is a million-dollar minimum. In other words, the tax fraud needs to be at least a loss of million dollars to the federal government before the IRS will investigate.
- Get an attorney: The fact is, the analysis, investigation and prosecution of government defrauding is a very specialized area of the law. So if you want to pursue legal action, you need an attorney - someone who understands the way these cases work. What's more, you need an attorney in order to know how to protect yourself. Once you file the lawsuit, although the government will try to keep your name confidential or private for as long as possible, at some point it will come out. You will be known as a whistle-blower and could potentially be blackballed from your industry. With an attorney, you have someone who knows about protection from retaliation by your company. Attorneys will also know that, at the end of the day, there may be money there for you; some portion of that settlement or recovery, which will compensate you for your time and trouble over the course of the investigation.
If you believe your company is defrauding the government in some way, speak with an experienced attorney about the situation. Attorneys will usually be able to analyze your situation and tell you if you have a legitimate case worth pursuing or if it's too small to be worthwhile.
Article by Brian McCormick, Jr.