Knowledge base

Qui Tam

Qui tam” is a provision in the federal False Claims Act that encourages private citizens to file sealed lawsuits in federal court that seek recovery of government money obtained by fraud, or more specifically, false claims. It is an incredibly powerful law, both in its inclusion of private citizens and their counsel, and the rights it affords private citizens as  whistleblower litigants, including its checks and balances against government inaction. Healthcare Fraud is the leading sector of False Claims Act violations. Within the broad umbrella of healthcare fraud, Medicare fraud has had the largest impact on taxpayer dollars.

The term “qui tam” is derived from the Latin adage qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur, meaning “he who pursues this action on our Lord the King’s behalf as well as his own.” Qui tam lawsuits extend back to 695 A.D., when the Anglo-Saxon King Wihtred of Kent issued a decree prohibiting labor on the Sabbath, which included a provision that “if a freeman works during the forbidden time between sunset on Saturday evening and sunset on Sunday evening, he shall forfeit his healsfang, and the man who informs against him shall have half the fine, and the profits arising from the labour.” This notion of reward for reporting misdemeanor constituted one of the first qui tam acts. In the 11th century, King Henry I expressed qui tam sentiments when he brought the judicial process to a local level, reasoning, “each man is to be judged by his peers of the same neighborhood.”

Centuries later, America’s first Continental Congress borrowed the term “qui tam,” yet it took nearly another century for the act to truly receive congressional recognition. The False Claims Act, also referred to as the “Lincoln Act,” “Informer’s Act,” or the “Qui Tam Statute,” was first developed by Congress in 1863. In its American conception, the law aimed to prevent government contractors from supplying faulty equipment to the Union Army in the Civil War. The Act found a particularly strong advocate in then-president Abraham Lincoln. A former lawyer, Lincoln was acutely aware of the necessity for regulation. He once wrote: “Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the nation while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains of the south and their countrymen are moldering in the dust.”

The 1863 Congress created the original False Claims Act by combining “Lincoln’s Law” with the already existing financial rewards for reporting corruption. In its initial form, the False Claims Act established the “tripartite framework” of values that underlie current qui tam suits: 1) the use of citizens to discover and expose fraud, 2) activation and advancement of cases to prosecution, and 3) the addition of the relator’s resources to the fraud action.

While President Lincoln and his colleagues established a strong foundation for the Act, their efforts were not long lasting. In 1943, a series of amendments to the Act established certain restrictions concerning the original provisions of the False Claims Act. By 1986, Congress and the public had become outraged by the government’s continued neglect of fraud, particularly in the defense industry. The law was subsequently amended again, with aims to encourage citizens to expose fraud as qui tam relators. Specifically, the law increased available whistleblower rewards in qui tam lawsuits and provided much-needed whistleblower protection. The 1986 amendment worked; qui tam lawsuits and the amount of overall return of funds to the federal treasury have increased annually.

While qui tam juris prudence has remained largely unchanged since 1986, recent years have brought efforts at destabilization from industries threatened by the federal False Claims Act and its qui tam provisions. Nolan Auerbach is at the forefront of the False Claims Act’s defense. Legislative efforts have failed, and the United States Supreme Court has historically given due credence to the integral role of qui tam lawsuit rewards in rooting out corruption. Healthcare fraud (Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud) is the most common subject matter of cases since the 1990s.

We cannot say we are the top-rated qui tam law firm or top-rated qui tam law firm practicing exclusively healthcare fraud, because there are no ratings for this specific legal area, and bar rules may prohibit making such a claim. With that said, our Firm is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, which includes only those select law practices that have earned the highest rating in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory and have been designated by their colleagues as preeminent in their field. Our named partners have received the 2011 Taxpayers Against Fraud Lawyer of the Year Award, and we enjoy a fine reputation with our colleagues and the Department of Justice.  Further, we have said that we are the most successful law firm that solely prosecutes healthcare fraud whistleblower cases, as such a statement could be measured objectively.

Healthcare fraud whistleblowers who need a qui tam attorney or whistleblower lawyer can contact Nolan Auerbach & White. The firm’s qui tam attorneys provide experienced legal representation to healthcare fraud whistleblowers under the qui tam provisions of the federal False Claims Act.

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