The Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that, for all of fiscal year (FY) 2015, over $3.5 billion in settlements and judgments were obtained because of fraud cases against the government brought under the False Claims Act (FCA). This marks the fourth consecutive year that recoveries exceeded $3.5 billion. It was also the sixth consecutive year that over 700 new cases were brought under the FCA’s qui tam provisions, which allows whistleblowers (also known as relators) to bring false claims suits on behalf of the government and thereby share in any monetary recovery.
Of the over $3.5 billion that was recovered, about $2.9 billion, or roughly 81 percent, was obtained due to qui tam suits. In the cases where the government refused to intervene, approximately $1.1 billion was recouped. That’s a substantial amount, and in fact, the $1.1 billion figure sets a new record. Also setting a new record was the total amount that was awarded to whistleblowers—a whopping $597 million.
FCA Whistleblowing Trends Arising from 2015 Actions
False Claims Act recoveries that occurred during 2015 are noteworthy because they spawned some seeming trends:
- Whistleblowers appear to be more willing to proceed with FCA actions even when the government does not intervene in the action. Qui tam cases in which there was no government intervention substantially increased during 2015. As mentioned previously, FY 2015 produced a marked increase in recoveries for qui tam cases where the government declined to intervene. These facts should encourage whistleblowers to persist in non-intervened cases.
- Because we have now seen six consecutive years in which over 700 FCA claims were filed annually, it appears that the DOJ will continue to devote resources to FCA enforcement. The increase in cases is indeed a new trend, because, before 2010, only one year topped 700 filed FCA claims. The increase in cases can be partly explained by the expansion of the scope of FCA liability that arose from the 2009 Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act.
- During FY 2015, increased attention was paid to FCA cases, especially big-money ones. In all likelihood more government attention will be focused on the conduct of individuals named in FCA matters, resulting in both civil and criminal cases. An expanding enforcement of anti-fraud statutes will therefore be likely to continue.
What Does This Mean for Me?
How does all of this affect you? If you are considering a whistleblower action, it is more imperative than ever that you consult with a qualified attorney to assist you with your claim. Government intervention may not be assured, but certain ways exist that can encourage them to intervene. Federal authorities now appear convinced that the investigation of fraud and false claims against the government should be encouraged, in an effort to see more whistleblowers step forward.