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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Qui Tam: The False Claims Act and Related Federal Statutes

Charles Doyle
Senior Specialist in American Public Law

Qui tam enlists the public in the recovery of civil penalties and forfeitures. It rewards with a portion of the recovered proceeds those who sue in the government’s name. A creature of antiquity, once common, today qui tam lives on in federal law only in the False Claims Act and in Indian protection laws.

The False Claims Act, expanded by the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009, P.L. 111- 21, 123 Stat. 1617 (2009), now proscribes: (1) presenting a false claim; (2) making or using a false record or statement material to a false claim; (3) possessing property or money of the U.S. and delivering less than all of it; (4) delivering a certified receipt with intent to defraud the U.S.; (5) buying public property from a federal officer or employee, who may not lawfully sell it; (6) using a false record or statement material to an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the U.S., or concealing or improperly avoiding or decreasing an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the U.S.; or (7) conspiring to commit any such offense. Additional liability may also flow from any retaliatory action taken against whistleblowers under the False Claims Act. Offenders may be sued for triple damages, costs, expenses, and attorneys’ fees in a civil action brought either by the United States or by a relator (whistleblower or other private party) in the name of the United States.

If the government initiates the suit, others may not join. If the government has not brought suit, a relator may do so, but must give the government notice and afford it 60 days to decide whether to take over the litigation. If the government declines to intervene, a prevailing relator’s share of any recovery is capped at 30%; if the government intervenes, the caps are lower and depend upon the circumstances. Relators in patent and Indian protection qui tam cases are entitled to half of the recovery.

Federal qui tam statutes have survived two types of constitutional challenges—those based on defendants’ rights in criminal cases and those based on the doctrine of separation of powers. The courts have found the rights required in criminal cases inapplicable, because qui tam actions are civil matters. They have generally rejected standing arguments, because relators stand in the shoes of the United States in whose name qui tam actions are brought. They have rejected appointments clause arguments, because relators hold no appointed office. They have rejected take care clause arguments, because the residue of governmental control over qui tam actions is considered constitutionally sufficient.

This report is available in an abridged version, as CRS Report R40786, Qui Tam: An Abbreviated Look at the False Claims Act and Related Federal Statutes, by Charles Doyle, stripped of the footnotes, quotations, appendix, and most of the citations found here.

Date of Report: February 25, 2013
Number of Pages: 51
Order Number: R40785
Price: $29.95

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