Helping relators continue their quests for justice.
Even when DOJ decides it will not intervene and bring litigation under the False Claims Act, a whistleblower (aka “relator”) still may move forward with the case. FTLF attorneys help clients to navigate the unique intricacies in this area including additional potential defenses, historical precedents, potential increased entitlement to a share of the proceeds, and the government’s right to join in the case at a later date.
A relator who proceeds with non-intervened litigation brings the case on behalf of the government, even though the government is not a party to the case. The term qui tam is shorthand for a latin phrase “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ispo in hac parte sequitur,” which means “he who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself.” In other words, while the relator is the one litigating the action, the matter is still brought on behalf of the government’s interests. And the government retains significant rights in the litigation, such as dismissal and settlement authority, and the ability to join the case at a later point upon a showing of good cause.
While a relator in a non-intervened FCA case must meet the same elements as the government in an intervened matter, there are a number of defenses available that are absent when DOJ intervenes. For example, has there been a public disclosure of the relator’s allegations prior to the complaint? If so, is the relator an original source, as defined by the statute? If not, the relator will be prohibited from bringing his or her action. Similarly, the FCA contains a “first-to-file” rule, meaning that if another relator had previously brought the alleged fraud to the government’s attention through a qui tam filing, the current relator is not permitted to proceed with his or her action.
In addition, the government retains the right to dismiss relator’s litigation notwithstanding his or her objection. This technique has been employed more and more of late, following new guidance issued by the DOJ in January 2018 encouraging department attorneys to analyze and consider dismissal when appropriate. While a circuit split exists regarding the standard of review applicable to the DOJ’s decision to dismiss, under both standards (Sequoia and Swift), DOJ is given significant deference. To date, only two DOJ dismissals have ever been denied by a court.