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As we've discussed before, the federal False Claims Act incentivizes and protects whistleblowers. The government wants to know if it's being defrauded and contractors are wasting taxpayer money, so the FCA allows whistleblowers to file a case in federal court and collect a percentage of any resulting fines.
One of the most controversial elements of False Claims Act jurisprudence relates to government employees. These employees tend to be uniquely well-positioned to uncover evidence of fraud against the government. Are they allowed to bring a claim as a False Claims Act relator?
The answer is complicated. But one thing is obvious: If you're a government employee considering bringing a False Claims Act case, you need a good lawyer. James Shoemaker is an experienced False Claims Act lawyer and understands how to represent government employees in whistleblower cases.
If you're a government employee and want to know more about your options under the False Claims Act, please call James Shoemaker today at 757.223.4560.
The State of Case Law
There are a couple important facts to keep in mind when discussing government employees and the False Claims Act. First, there's no absolute bar to a government employee filing a False Claims Act case. You can file your claim and it can move forward if you're a government employee.
Of course, that leads us to the second point: the federal government takes a very strong position against employees filing False Claims Act cases. So far as the Department of Justice is concerned, federal employees are not eligible to serve as FCA relators. The Justice Department makes such cases very difficult for government employees.
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The logic to that position is that it represents a conflict of interest for government employees. Federal employees are required by law to report any evidence of fraud or wrongdoing, and there are established channels for such reports. If employees instead opt to pursue an FCA case, that endangers the entire federal reporting system.
Traditionally, federal courts have been very receptive to these arguments, and, as such, were quite hostile to federal employees in FCA cases. However, court rulings have been mixed, and Congress has so far refused to pass amendments to the False Claims Act that would explicitly bar federal employees from serving as FCA relators.
Where does that leave your claim? Should you pursue an FCA case or should you work through proper channels? Making that decision is tough, and you don't have to make it on your own. Talk to Mr. Shoemaker about your options. He'll listen to your case and help you determine if you have a viable False Claims Act argument.
If you want to speak to a lawyer with experience helping government employees deal with the False Claims Act, please call James Shoemaker today at 757.223.4560. Patten, Wornom, Hatten & Diamonstein is located in Virginia, but we welcome cases from across the country.