Part 5: The Trend of Recoveries Under the False Claims Act

This is Part 5 of 6 of a recently updated article about the qui tam whistleblower statutes, the federal False Claims Act and the new state False Claims Acts. This is an updated version of a previously published article by whistleblower lawyer blog author Michael A. Sulliva.

This Part 5 discusses the striking success of the False Claims Act since its 1986 Amendments, as it has recovered more than $27 billion in taxpayers’ money wrongfully obtained by fraud and false claims.

IV. The Trend of Recent Recoveries Under the False Claims Act

Over the past twenty-four years since the modern False Claims Act was established through the 1986 Amendments, the federal government’s recoveries of dollars have grown astronomically, especially in health care cases. The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) statistics tell the story:

In 1987, the government’s recoveries in qui tam cases totaled zero, presumably because the 1986 Amendments had just taken effect; and total recoveries under the False Claims Act were just $86 million. The following year, qui tam and other False Claims Act settlements and judgments began a steady climb upward, exceeding $200 million by 1989, and $300 million by 1991. By 1994, the government’s recoveries broke the $1 billion mark for the first time, with $380 million of that amount attributable to qui tam case recoveries alone.

In 2000, the government recovered more than $1.5 billion, of which $1.2 billion was derived from qui tam actions. In 2001, the government recovered more than $1.7 billion, with almost $1.2 billion of that amount from qui tam cases. With the exception of 2004, in each year since 2000 the government has recovered more than a billion dollars per year under the False Claims Act, and qui tam actions were responsible for the lion’s share of those recoveries. For example, in 2003, government recoveries exceeded $2.2 billion, of which $1.4 billion came from qui tam cases. Similarly, in 2005, of the government’s total recovery of $1.4 billion, $1.1 billion of that amount came from qui tam cases.

In 2006, the Justice Department recovered a record of more than $3.1 billion in settlements and judgments for fraud and false claims. Of this record $3.1 billion in recoveries, 72% came from the health care field; 20% from defense; and 8% from other sources. In that record year, health care alone accounted for $2.2 billion in settlements and judgments, which included a $920 million settlement with Tenet Healthcare Corporation, the country’s second-largest hospital chain. Defense procurement fraud amounted to $609 million in recoveries, which included a $565 million settlement with the Boeing Company.

In 2010, DOJ set a record for health care fraud recoveries of $2.5 billion, out of a total of $3 billion recovered from civil fraud claims. $2.3 billion of that $3 billion resulted from qui tam cases. DOJ also set a two-year record for recoveries of $5.4 billion in 2009-2010, most as a result of qui tam cases.

It is interesting that, while defense procurement fraud both inspired the Act and was the largest source of recoveries at the time of the 1986 Amendments, health care cases now lead in recoveries, as health care costs have grown as a percentage of the federal budget. By industry, in 1987 the defense industry was the largest source of cases under the False Claims Act. The health care industry accounted for only 12% of cases under the False Claims Act in 1987; that percentage grew to 54% by 1997. In 2008, health care produced more than 80% of the government’s recoveries, and that figure grew to 83% in 2010.

In short, the health care industry now consistently accounts for the vast majority of settlements and judgments obtained by the federal government for fraud and false claims.