Protecting Whistleblower Rights Under the False Claims Act
There are many laws that protect employees who blow the whistle on fraud or waste involving governmental monies. And under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Acts, individuals who report the misuse of federal or state funds can be awarded large bounties equal to a percentage of the governmental monies involved (which often run into the millions of dollars).
If you are being retaliated against because you raised concerns about the waste or misuse of federal or state monies, I can help you protect your rights. Or if you know of the waste or misuse of federal or state monies and are not sure what to do, call me to see if you may be entitled to a large FCA award. Any such calls will be held in the strictest confidence with no charge for the consultation.
The purpose of False Claims Act laws is to punish the dishonest use of governmental monies and thus deter others from defrauding taxpayers. The FCA imposes triple damages against the defrauding party and entitles the whistleblower to a substantial share of the total recovery (usually 15% to 25%). However, due to the special procedures involved in FCA matters (including the filing a complaint under a seal of secrecy), it is best not to talk to any one about your concerns until you have a chance to consult with a knowledgeable attorney.
Who Is Subject To A False Claim?
False Claims Acts apply to any state or federally funded contract or program. It imposes liability on any person who submits a claim to the federal government that he or she knows (or should know) is false. Examples of industries are: railroads that receive federal or state funds, health care providers claiming payment under Medicare or Medicaid, and companies or contractors providing goods or services under Department of Defense contracts.But any business, contractor, or group that directly or indirectly receives or uses federal or state grants or program funds is subject to a false claim action.
What Is A False Claim?
Any claim for payment presented to a state or federal government is actionable under a False Claims Act if the claim is made:
- With actual knowledge of the falsity of the claim
- With deliberate indifference to the truth or falsity of the claim
- With reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the claim
The False Claim Act does not require that the person submitting the claim have actual knowledge that the claim is false. Any person who merely acts in reckless disregard or in deliberate ignorance of the truth or falsity of the claim information is liable.
Examples of false claims include: falsifying a condition of payment; billing for tests or services not done; billing for inappropriate or unnecessary procedures or tests; double billing; billing for more expensive services than actually provided; billing for substandard care, service, or goods; and failing to refund excess monies owed to the government.
Also, state and federal governments often condition the receipt of funds on compliance with particular laws, regulations, or industry standards. Examples would be requiring compliance with safety, labor, non-discrimination, medical care, and environmental regulations and standards. It is a false claim for anyone to receive such governmental funds if they know they are not in compliance or if they do not know whether they actually are in compliance. It is a red flag when a recipient of such governmental funds fails to have a meaningful compliance program in place that ensures compliance with any applicable laws, regulations, or standards.
Transportation Infrastructure Construction Project False Claims
One area that has not received the false claims attention it deserves is transportation infrastructure construction projects.
The False Claims Act applies to any federal contractor who directly or indirectly receives governmental funds, and transportation infrastructure projects are subject to the FCA because they involve substantial federal and state funding. Such projects include the construction or renovation of tunnels, bridges, highways, stations, and ports, as well as publicly funded railroad capital improvements. For example, in the greater New York City area alone, a multitude of projects are underway at the MTA, Amtrak, Metro North Railroad, the Long Island Rail Road, PATH, and New Jersey Transit (see below for a partial list). The FCA applies to similar construction projects nationwide.
The purpose of the False Claims Act is to punish the dishonest use of governmental monies and thus deter others from defrauding taxpayers. Examples of false claims include:
- falsely certifying a condition of payment;
- billing for services not done or that are unnecessary;
- over billing;
- billing for substandard goods or services; or
- failing to pay or refund monies owed to the government.
A six year statute of limitations applies, so any false claims going back six years are fair game.
The FCA imposes triple damages and fines against the defrauding party, and entitles the whistleblower relator to receive 15% to 30% of the total. However, FCA cases are fraught with hurdles and pitfalls. They can only be brought by an attorney on behalf of a whistleblower. Only the first relator to file can recover a bounty. The complaint must be filed under seal. And any public disclosure or breach of the seal can be fatal to a relator's case.
So here is the message to all the managers and employees involved in such transportation construction projects: be on the look out for potential false claims. If you have concrete information showing the misuse of federal or state monies within the past six years, do not go public until you contact an experienced FCA attorney to ensure you follow the special procedures of the FCA. Any discussion will be kept confidential, and any resulting FCA complaint will be filed under seal.
So remember, when confronted with evidence that taxpayer dollars are being lost to fraud or waste, do the right thing. You may receive a multimillion dollar bounty for protecting taxpayer dollars.
Here are some examples of transportation infrastructure construction projects with the potential to generate FCA actions:
Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)
Second Avenue subway line
Line 7 Extension to West Side
East Side Access to Grand Central Terminal
Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) third track
Metro North Railroad access to Penn Station
Port Authority New York New Jersey (PANYNJ)
The Gateway Program trans Hudson River rail tunnel, also known as the Gateway Tunnel or the Hudson Tunnel Project
Expansion of PATH from Newark Penn Station to Newark Liberty International Airport's Air Link Station
LaGuardia Airport redevelopment
Portal Bridge North project
Goethals Bridge replacement project
Bayonne Bridge rebuilding
New Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan
George Washington Bridge overhaul and rehabilitation
Amtrak or National Railroad Passenger Corporation
Penn Station Post Office or Moynihan Station construction
Hudson River tunnels
Connecticut River Bridge
Niantic River Bridge
New Haven - Hartford - Springfield Rail Program
Portal Bridge Replacement
Washington Union Station Modernization
Know Your Rights Before You Act: Call For A Free Consultation
False Claims Act cases can be worth millions of dollars to you, but your claim will be rendered worthless if you do not follow their special procedures. Before taking any action you may regret, call to discuss whether you have a case and if so how best to go about protecting your interests.
Learn more about the Federal False Claims Act at these information links:
- Federal False Claims Act Primer
- New York False Claims Act
- New Jersey False Claims Act
- Washington, D.C., False Claims Act
Contact An Experienced New York False Claims Action Lawyer
From offices in New Haven, New York, and Washington, D.C., Attorney Charles Goetsch provides legal representation for fraud and waste whistleblowers in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and throughout the Northeastern U.S. and across the nation. If you have information regarding fraud or waste involving any governmental monies, get the legal guidance you need. Wherever you are in the Northeast or across the United States, call toll free 866-316-6825 or contact the office to arrange a free and strictly confidential consultation.