Whistleblower (Qui Tam) Defense
Our Federal Attorneys Provide Vigorous Representation for Corporate Clients in Defense of Whistleblower (Qui Tam) Claims
Table of Contents
- Our Federal Attorneys Provide Vigorous Representation for Corporate Clients in Defense of Whistleblower (Qui Tam) Claims
- Why to Choose Oberheiden, P.C. for Federal Whistleblower (Qui Tam) Defense
- Cases We Handle
- Strategic Defense at All Stages of Federal Whistleblower Litigation
- Potential Defense Strategies in Federal Qui Tam Litigation
- Schedule a Confidential Case Assessment at Oberheiden, P.C.
While federal whistleblower statutes serve an important role in our society, they also present extreme risks for corporations and other businesses. Not only do these statutes make it extraordinarily easy for individuals (who are often disgruntled former employees) to file damaging claims, but they also require federal authorities to investigate when the basic requirements for pleading a whistleblower claim have been met. This, coupled with the financial incentive provided to whistleblowers (or “relators”), means that companies in all industries are at high-risk for qui tam litigation, and those that fail to defend themselves effectively can face substantial federal penalties and reputational harm.
In today’s world, brushing off a whistleblower claim is simply not an option. Not only will relators (and their plaintiff’s attorneys) and federal prosecutors vigorously pursue damages and relator compensation, but in many cases companies will face follow-on retaliation claims as well. As a result, companies facing whistleblower claims need to take swift and proactive measures to protect themselves, and they must also prepare themselves for the possibility of protracted federal and administrative litigation.
At Oberheiden, P.C., we bring centuries of federal experience to defending clients in whistleblower litigation. This includes all stages of the qui tam process – from government investigation and intervention through trial – as well as retaliation litigation and related civil claims. If your company is being targeted in a whistleblower lawsuit, there are steps you need to take immediately. To speak with a member of our federal defense team in confidence, call 888-519-4897 now.
Why to Choose Oberheiden, P.C. for Federal Whistleblower (Qui Tam) Defense
Whistleblower litigation is unique in a number of key respects. Most fundamentally, it involves a lawsuit filed by a private citizen on behalf of the federal government. The government relies on whistleblowers to share information that it would not be able to discover otherwise, and it compensates them handsomely for their efforts: Under the False Claims Act, for example, relators can receive anywhere from 15% to 30% percent of the amount the government recovers in the litigation. Depending on the scope and nature of the allegations involved, this can potentially be millions of dollars.
Whistleblower cases are also unique in that they involve direct interaction with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ has a legal obligation to investigate all facially-compliant whistleblower complaints; and, if it decides to “intervene” in the case, the DOJ will prosecute the case directly. For companies that are used to facing civil litigation involving private counterparties, going up against the vast resources of the DOJ is a different experience entirely.
At Oberheiden, P.C., our practice is devoted to federal defense, and we have successfully represented companies across the country in qui tam litigation. In addition, several of our defense lawyers formerly served as prosecutors and trial attorneys with the DOJ. As a result, we are able to offer our clients an in-depth perspective on whistleblower claims, and we are able to efficiently build defense strategies that are tailored specifically to the DOJ’s approach to investigation, intervention, and prosecution.
This is Why You Are in Good Hands
When you choose Oberheiden, P.C. to represent your company in federal whistleblower litigation:
- We will quickly assess the source, nature, and scope of the allegations against your company. When facing a whistleblower lawsuit, your first order of business needs to be to assess the validity of the relator’s allegations. This means working diligently to identify the source, nature, and scope of the allegations underlying the relator’s complaint. With our attorneys’ extensive experience in federal litigation, counseling, and compliance matters, we can work with you to obtain a clear picture of the relator’s (and potentially the government’s) case against you.
- We will immediately begin working directly with the DOJ. From the time you engage us, we will begin working immediately with the DOJ on your behalf. We will begin raising questions about the veracity of the relator’s allegations, and we will begin executing a defense strategy designed to quickly put the matter to rest.
- We will work aggressively to convince the DOJ not to intervene. In qui tam litigation, the DOJ’s decision to intervene is a critical stage in the process. While relators can pursue their claims independently if the DOJ chooses not to intervene, they will usually face an uphill battle in doing so.
- If necessary, we will tailor our representation to obtaining a favorable pre-trial resolution or a positive result at trial. If it is not possible to prevent DOJ intervention (or if the relator chooses to pursue his or her claim independently), we will shift our focus to obtaining a favorable resolution either prior to or during trial. While this may mean negotiating a settlement, it could also still mean convincing the relator’s attorney, the DOJ, or the judge that no judgment is warranted.
- We will keep you informed and work closely with you every step of the way. Our senior attorneys will remain in close contact with you throughout the duration of your case. We will keep you informed, answer your questions, listen to your suggestions, and make sure you are confident in the direction of your defense.
More about Our Federal Whistleblower Defense Practice
Cases We Handle
- Healthcare Fraud (Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, and Department of Labor (DOL) Fraud)
- Affordable Care Act (ACA) Violations
- Patient Data Privacy and Protection Violations (including Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Violations)
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Violations
- Securities Fraud Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)
- Environmental Law Violations
- Consumer Protection Law Violations
- Other Federal Offenses and Regulatory Violations
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Strategic Defense at All Stages of Federal Whistleblower Litigation
There are several stages involved in the qui tam litigation process; and, when facing a whistleblower claim, it is essential to tailor your defense to each individual stage. In our practice, our attorneys work as a team to pursue favorable outcomes at each stage in light of the unique legal, factual, and procedural aspects involved:
1. The Whistleblower Complaint
Upon being served with a whistleblower complaint, the target company’s work begins immediately. There are deadlines that apply, and getting out in front of the government’s investigation can be critical to framing the complaint in a favorable way. Whistleblower complaints often contain sweeping allegations and generalizations that belie the truth of the matter at hand, and targeted organizations must work swiftly to prevent false allegations and mischaracterizations from getting out of hand.
2. The Government Investigation
Assuming the relator has met the basic pleading requirements to initiate a qui tam lawsuit, the government will investigate the allegations set forth in the complaint. Taking an aggressive stance during the investigative process and proactively challenging the relator’s reliability and assumptions are key to convincing federal prosecutors that intervention is unwarranted. At this stage, targeted companies can dispute the veracity of the relator’s allegations by all available means – from attacking the relator’s motives to casting doubt on the government’s ability to prove the allegations in court.
3. The Government’s Decision on Intervention
Based on the evidence obtained during its investigation, the government will choose to either intervene in the case (in which federal prosecutors will pursue the case directly) or decline further involvement. Preventing government intervention is a major success, as relators have a much more difficult time pursuing whistleblower claims independently. In fact, in many cases the evidence (or lack thereof) will be such that the relator will not move forward with the case if the government declines to intervene.
4. Pre-Trial Practice and Settlement Negotiations
If the government decides to intervene, it will often – though not always – be in the target company’s best interests to negotiate a pre-trial resolution. In federal whistleblower cases, settlement is an option similar to private civil litigation. However, if the government’s decision is misguided, or if there are constitutional or other defenses available that call the government’s ability to win a verdict into question, then it may be in the target company’s best interests to fight for a pre-trial dismissal of charges or take the case to court.
5. Federal Trial and Appeal
When we take federal whistleblower cases to trial, we continue our team approach and utilize our senior attorneys’ varied backgrounds and skillsets to present strong cases for dismissal. The trial process for qui tam actions is similar to the trial process for other types of claims, and our attorneys call upon their experience in more than 500 federal trials to strategically defend our clients.
Potential Defense Strategies in Federal Qui Tam Litigation
While the complexity of federal qui tam litigation presents some unique challenges, it also means that companies targeted in whistleblower complaints have a variety of potential types of defenses available. When you engage our firm to represent you, we will assess all available defense options and build a comprehensive and cohesive defense strategy that is designed to protect your company to the greatest extent possible. Some of the types of defenses available in qui tam litigation include:
- Procedural Deficiencies – Whistleblower complaints must comply with all applicable provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). Exposing procedural and technical deficiencies in relators’ can allow companies to fend off claims before the government initiates its investigation in some cases.
- Failure to File a Disclosure Statement – In addition to the initial complaint, the relator must also file a disclosure statement with the DOJ. This statement must include, “substantially all material evidence and information the [relator] possesses.” Failure to file a complete and accurate disclosure statement can provide grounds for dismissal of a whistleblower complaint.
- Inadequate Evidence – As in all cases, in qui tam litigation, the government (or the relator) has the burden of proof. If there is not sufficient evidence to prove a statutory or regulatory violation, then no penalties are warranted.
- Safe Harbors and Other Statutory Defenses – In many cases, conduct that appears to be unlawful will be protected under a safe harbor, exemption, or other statutory exception. We have successfully defended numerous clients by proving that their actions fell within a statutory safe harbor or exception.
- Constitutional Protections – From the prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures to the protection against double jeopardy, the protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution will provide essential defenses in many cases.