The False Claims Act is America's Most Important Whistleblower Law
President Abraham Lincoln signed the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. §§3729-2733 on March 2, 1862. Since the FCA was signed into law it has become the most successful anti-fraud act in the United States. In 1986, major changes were made to the FCA, which increased damages significantly for these cases. According to a DOJ press release, $3.7 billion in FCA settlements and judgements were recovered in 2017. $3.4 billion of the recovered monies can be attributed to whistleblower-initiated cases, and $392 million were given as rewards to relators. There are now around 600 new whistleblower cases annually.
One of the most important aspects of the False Claims Act are the qui tam, or whistleblower, provision. It allows any individual or non-governmental organization to file a False Claims Act lawsuit on behalf of the United States Government. The government is required to investigate all whistleblower claims and can either “intervene” and proceed with the case or decline, in which case the whistleblower may proceed with the action.
Since the act was amended in 1986, the U.S. government has recovered over $56 billion. The U.S. Assistant Attorney General has said that this whistleblower reward law is “the most powerful tool the American people have to protect the government from fraud”. While a large portion of this taxpayer recovery is returned to the government, whistleblowers are awarded significant amounts of the settlement for their bravery and in recognition that many of them have risked their livelihoods. Not only do these whistleblower cases play an instrumental role in outing fraudulent behavior within the U.S., they also aid in the fight against international corruption.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has made its opposition to the False Claims Act very clear over the years. The law has been extremely effective returning billions of dollars to taxpayers from fraudulent government contractors. We need to do everything we can to ensure that major corporate interests don’t hijack the best tool we must protect the fiscal responsibility of the government, and ensure the False Claims Act remains just as effective as ever.
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