Think You Have a Whistleblower Case? Follow These Three Steps.
The federal government only joins about 150 whistleblower cases a year so it is vital that don’t try to move forward with your case without a private lawyer. If you do not present a well-framed legal and factual case, there is very little chance the government will consider your case over the myriad other cases before them. Your best chance to get your case properly filed and presented is with the help of an experienced whistleblower attorney. Below are the first two steps we recommend you take if you believe you have a case.
1. Organize your case’s story and details.
False Claims Act lawyers are looking for clients who have “done their homework.” It is very important for you to “pitch” your False Claims Act case as simply as possible. After this step, you’ll have a simple organized story, an inventory of evidence in hand, and a list of potential interviewees for government investigators to talk to should they decide to further explore this case.
Grab two pieces of paper and a writing utensil. On the first page start with your name, job title in the company, and explain how you came to know about the fraud. Do this carefully, omit the name of the company and any company-identifying information. In one page, tell a simple story, without jargon, that gives the “who, what, where, when, and how” of the fraud. Detail what federal or state agency was defrauded, the basics of how the fraud works, and the size of the fraud.
On the second page, draw a line across the middle of the page. Above this line detail the evidence you have in hand to support the story on the first page: emails, spreadsheets, contracts, billing records, training materials, PowerPoint presentations, copies of canceled checks, voice mails, audio or video. Below this line, list the titles of people, inside the company and outside the company, who should be contacted and questioned if an investigation is initiated.
2. Determine your case’s legal arena.
Research today’s whistleblower programs (FCA, IRS, SEC & CFTC) and State False Claims Acts to best understand your case’s legal needs.
3. Search our membership to hire an experienced whistleblower attorney.
You want an attorney who knows the pitfalls of False Claims Act, IRS, and SEC litigation, and how to avoid them. You want someone on your team who understands that the government is not the enemy, and who also understands how your case can be leveraged and expanded to achieve a maximum impact. No one covers False Claims Act, SEC, IRS and CFTC legal developments with the same intensity as Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund. Our plaintiffs-only listserv unites the whistleblower bar and is a key source of real-time developments in the whistleblower arena. Search our membership directory to find a specialized attorney to contact about your case.
Here are some additional considerations when hiring your attorney:
Don’t pay attorney’s fees up front.
You need an attorney who is competent, and who will help you evaluate the calculated risk of filing a False Claims Act case. The last thing you want to do is file a losing False Claims Act case that drains you of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and which leaves your reputation in tatters. By hiring a lawyer under a contingency agreement in which the lawyer is paid out of any future recovery, you are hiring a lawyer with a vested interest in your case’s success, and who is unlikely to proceed unless he or she thinks success is likely. If no competent False Claims Act attorney will take your case on a contingency basis, you probably do not want to file a False Claims Act case.
Research and evaluate the firm.
Have they won False Claims Act, SEC, or IRS whistleblower law cases before? Ask for the name of the case and a summary of the results. Did the government join the case? Has the firm litigated declined cases in the past? Is the firm in the integrity business for the long haul, and have they made a pledge to “pay it forward” to protect whistleblower laws into the future? Does this firm only do plaintiff work?
Consider law firms beyond your city and state.
Most large cases are national in scope and deal with frauds against core government programs and institutions, such as Medicare, Medicaid, the IRS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, HUD, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, the SEC, FEMA, Department of Transportation, etc. The relationship between your lawyer and officials with the U.S. Department of Justice and the relationship between your lawyer and those few U.S. Attorney Offices that actually file cases similar to yours are far more important than where your lawyer resides.
***As a reminder, TAFEF staff members do not represent any clients in cases.