Recently released fraud statistics from the Department of Justice do not leave whistleblowers, their attorneys, or good-government advocates with a particularly rosy picture of 2018. Although the number of new qui tam cases fell only slightly — to 645 in 2018 from 680 in 2017 — the total value of recoveries in qui tam matters fell in cases with and without government involvement.
In qui tam cases where the government intervened, relators recovered slightly less than $2 billion this year. That is markedly less than one year ago, where qui tam cases with government intervention raked in nearly $2.6 billion.
Further, the total amount recovered from qui tam actions where the government declined to intervene declined significantly over the past year, from $599 million in 2017 to roughly $118.7 million in 2018. This is a decrease of over 80% from the previous year, but within historical norms.
All in all, the government recovered roughly $2.1 billion dollars in qui tam cases this year, with total recoveries (including non-qui tam actions) sitting at approximately $2.8 billion for 2018. This is the lowest annual total since 2009. However, there’s still one bright spot for whistleblower advocates: qui tam actions made up 645 of new FCA claims in 2018.
Although this is lower than in recent years, it represents substantial growth from 2008 when qui tam actions comprised only 379 of new FCA matters. Numbers from 2018 may also rise in future reports, as more cases are unsealed.
But the government’s press release on the matter offers an interesting window into how the Department of Justice uses the False Claims Act as a tool to combat fraud. In line with previous years, healthcare fraud cases continue to compose the bulk of qui tam matters. In FY 2018, roughly $2.5 Billion of the $2.8 Billion recovered from the FCA stemmed from healthcare-related cases.
Although the characteristic focus on healthcare provider fraud remains, a substantial portion of the press release focuses on the use of the FCA to litigate procurement fraud. A report in the Wall Street Journal from earlier this year that featured TAFEF members and staff pointed out how private practitioners were increasingly using the FCA to combat customs fraud, and we hope the federal government follows suit.