DOJ Whistleblower Awards

The U.S. Department of Justice Issues Awards to Eligible Whistleblowers Under the False Claims Act

Lynette Byrd
Attorney Lynette Byrd
DOJ Whistleblower Award Team Lead
Former DOJ Attorneyenvelope iconContact Lynette
Nick Oberheiden
Attorney Nick Oberheiden
DOJ Whistleblower Award Team Leadenvelope iconContact Nick
Tim Allen
Tim Allen
DOJ Whistleblower Award Team
Former Secret Service (Digital Forensics Expert)
Brian Kuester
Attorney Brian Kuester
DOJ Whistleblower Award Team
Former U.S. Attorney and District Attorneyenvelope iconContact Brian

Individuals who blow the whistle on fraud, waste, and abuse play a fundamental role in the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ongoing efforts to protect taxpayer funds and preserve the integrity of federal contracting, grant, and healthcare benefit programs. Because of this, the DOJ not only encourages whistleblowers to come forward, but it incentivizes them to do so. In addition to protecting whistleblowers’ identities, the DOJ also pays whistleblower awards to eligible individuals.

While DOJ whistleblower awards are determined case-by case, these awards are generally fairly substantial. The DOJ pays hundreds of millions of dollars to whistleblowers annually under the False Claims Act (FCA); and, according to data from the DOJ, it paid $488 million to whistleblowers in the most recent government fiscal year, with an average award of nearly $750,000.

If you believe that you may have information about a violation of the False Claims Act and are interested in seeking a DOJ whistleblower award, we can help. At Oberheiden P.C., we have extensive experience representing federal whistleblowers. Additionally, as many of our whistleblower lawyers spent time at the DOJ before entering private practice, we have an intimate understanding of the DOJ’s whistleblower program, and we are able to use our knowledge to help our clients come forward.

When Are You Eligible to Receive a Whistleblower Award from the DOJ?

The DOJ’s whistleblower program rewards individuals who come forward with information about violations of the False Claims Act. The FCA applies to government contractors, grant recipients, and program participants, and it prohibits these entities (and their owners, executives, and personnel) from submitting invalid claims to the federal government. Among other things, the FCA specifically prohibits:

  • “Knowingly present[ing], or caus[ing] to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval;”
  • “Knowingly mak[ing], us[ing], or caus[ing] to be made or used, a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim;” or,
  • “Conspir[ing] to commit a violation” of either of these prohibitions.

Violations of the False Claims Act can take many forms. For example, while submitting a fake invoice or billing Medicare for services not actually rendered violates the FCA, so does substituting inferior materials or double-billing the government and a private payor. Federal grant recipients can be prosecuted under the FCA for submitting false data in order to obtain additional funding, and contractors, institutions, and other entities that work with others to rig bids or fraudulently obtain federal funds can be prosecuted as co-conspirators.

Individuals who report any violation of the False Claims Act to the DOJ can become eligible to receive a whistleblower award. However, establishing eligibility for a DOJ whistleblower award is not simply a matter of sharing information with the government. Instead, whistleblowers must meet certain specific eligibility criteria, including:

  • Voluntary Submission – To qualify for a whistleblower award from the DOJ, an individual must voluntarily submit information to the Department. This means that whistleblowers must come forward on their own initiative, and not as the result of a civil investigative demand (CID), target letter, subpoena, or other governmental inquiry.
  • Original Information – Whistleblowers must also be able to provide “original information” to the DOJ. This means that whistleblowers must provide information that is not already known to the DOJ in order to be eligible for an award. It also generally means that the information provided must not be publicly available, although there are exceptions in some cases.
  • Successful Enforcement Action – As discussed in greater detail below, DOJ whistleblower awards are calculated based on the amount that the DOJ recovers as a result of the information that a whistleblower provides. As a result, in order to receive an award, a whistleblower must provide information that leads to a successful enforcement action.

If you are thinking about blowing the whistle with the DOJ, we strongly encourage you to speak with a lawyer at Oberheiden P.C. We can determine your eligibility to serve as a federal whistleblower; and, if you choose to move forward with filing a whistleblower complaint, we can work with the DOJ on your behalf. We can also assist with determining the amount of your DOJ whistleblower award and helping you collect your award if you become entitled to receive one.

Put our highly experienced team on your side

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden

Founder

Attorney-at-Law

Lynette S. Byrd
Lynette S. Byrd

Former DOJ Trial Attorney

Partner

Brian J. Kuester
Brian J. Kuester

Former U.S. Attorney

Amanda Marshall
Amanda Marshall

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

John W. Sellers
John W. Sellers

Former Senior DOJ Trial Attorney

Linda Julin McNamara
Linda Julin McNamara

Federal Appeals Attorney

Aaron L. Wiley
Aaron L. Wiley

Former DOJ attorney

Local Counsel

Roger Bach
Roger Bach

Former Special Agent (DOJ)

Chris Quick
Chris J. Quick

Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)

Michael S. Koslow
Michael S. Koslow

Former Supervisory Special Agent (DOD-OIG)

Ray Yuen
Ray Yuen

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

Determining the Amount of a DOJ Whistleblower Award

The primary purpose of the False Claims Act is to allow the federal government to recover funds improperly paid to federal contractors, grant recipients, and program participants. Under the FCA, the DOJ can seek to recoup treble damages (three times the government’s actual losses) plus interest, costs, and fees.

If the DOJ is successful in recovering improper payments in a False Claims Act case initiated by a whistleblower, the whistleblower is entitled to a percentage of the government’s recovery. In most cases, DOJ whistleblower awards are between 15 and 25 percent of the total amount the government recovers. Within this range, the primary factor determining the specific percentage of a DOJ whistleblower award is the extent of the whistleblower’s involvement in helping the Department pursue a successful enforcement action.

However, DOJ whistleblower awards can also be up to 30 percent of the government’s recovery in some cases. Whistleblowers can receive 30 percent of the government’s recovery if they pursue a successful enforcement action without the government’s involvement. While the DOJ investigates all substantiated whistleblower complaints, it will only pursue enforcement action when doing so is warranted in light of the DOJ’s enforcement priorities, the resources required, the government’s likely recovery, and other relevant factors. When the DOJ declines to intervene, whistleblowers can pursue their claims independently, and they are entitled to additional compensation for the additional effort involved (if their efforts are successful).

There are also limited circumstances in which a DOJ whistleblower award can be reduced to less than 15 percent of the government’s recovery. For example, if a whistleblower participated in the fraud, then the whistleblower may be entitled to no more than 10 percent of the government’s recovery—provided that the whistleblower is not convicted of committing a federal crime.

FAQs: DOJ Whistleblower Complaints and Awards

How Do I Apply for a DOJ Whistleblower Award?

To become eligible for a DOJ whistleblower award, you must submit a qui tam complaint in accordance with the requirements of the False Claims Act and the DOJ’s whistleblower program. Your complaint must meet all applicable substantive and procedural requirements, and you must satisfy both the “voluntary submission” and “original information” requirements. To ensure your eligibility for an award and the protections afforded to federal whistleblowers, we recommend that you speak with an experienced federal whistleblower lawyer before moving forward.

Do I Need a Lawyer to File a Whistleblower Complaint with the DOJ and Obtain an Award?

While you are not required to hire a lawyer when filing a whistleblower complaint with the DOJ, working with an experienced federal whistleblower lawyer is strongly recommended. An experienced lawyer will be able to help ensure that you meet all of the requirements to establish your eligibility for an award, and your lawyer will be able to help you obtain your award from the DOJ if you become entitled to receive one.

Can I Receive a Whistleblower Award from the DOJ if I Participated in the Fraud I Am reporting?

It is possible to receive a whistleblower award from the DOJ even if you participated in the fraud you are reporting. However, there are limitations, and voluntarily disclosing your own wrongdoing to the federal government can be risky. With this in mind, if you are considering coming forward but also have concerns about facing scrutiny yourself, it will be especially important for you to work with an attorney who can help you make informed decisions and communicate effectively with the DOJ on your behalf.

How Common Are DOJ Whistleblower Awards?

The DOJ reports receiving an average of more than 12 whistleblower complaints under the False Claims Act each week. While not all of these complaints lead to whistleblower compensation awards, many do. If you are thinking about blowing the whistle with the DOJ, an attorney at Oberheiden P.C. can help you understand the likelihood of receiving a DOJ whistleblower award based on the information you have in your possession.

Am I Guaranteed to Receive an Award if I File a Whistleblower Complaint with the DOJ?

No, you are not guaranteed to receive an award if you file a whistleblower complaint with the DOJ. The DOJ only compensates whistleblowers when the information they provide leads to a successful enforcement action.


Schedule a Confidential Consultation with a Federal Whistleblower Lawyer at Oberheiden P.C.

If you are thinking about reporting fraud or other wrongdoing to the federal government and would like to know more about DOJ whistleblower awards, we invite you to get in touch. Once you do, we will arrange for you to speak with a senior federal whistleblower lawyer at Oberheiden P.C. in strict confidence as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation, please call 888-680-1745 or tell us how we can reach you online today.

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