A wave of new “whistleblower” laws continues, inspired by the successes of the federal False Claims Act. These new laws include (1) state versions of the federal False Claims Act, and (2) the new IRS Whistleblower Rewards Program. At the same time, in 2008 Congress is considering legislation to strengthen the False Claims Act.
This article focuses on the new state False Claims Acts, which mirror the federal False Claims Act in important respects, but can differ in some significant ways. For employees who report fraud against the government and who face adverse employment actions, these new whistleblower laws may provide substantial relief.One of the new state whistleblower laws, the Georgia “State False Medical Claims Act,” became law on May 24, 2007. Participating in the signing ceremony with Governor Sonny Perdue were (shown above from left to right) Carrie Downing, Director of Legislative and External Affairs of the Georgia Department of Community Health; Dr. Rhonda Medows, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health; Inspector General Doug Colburn; Governor Perdue; Rep. Edward Lindsey, sponsor of the State False Medicaid Claims Act; whistleblower lawyer blog author Michael A. Sullivan of Finch McCranie, LLP; and Philip Consuegra, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Lindsey.
These new state False Claims Acts and the federal False Claims Act create civil liability for treble damages and potentially huge penalties for fraud and false claims submitted to the government. They authorize “qui tam” or “whistleblower” lawsuits by employees or other persons, who may share in the government’s recovery, as well as allow employees to recover damages for retaliation. These state False Claims Acts, like the federal Act, have unique procedural requirements that are foreign to most lawyers.
This article explains how the state False Claims Acts work, which itself requires an explanation of the unique and sometimes perplexing federal False Claims Act on which these state Acts are based. This article summarizes the background of the federal False Claims Act, outlines how it operates, and discusses the Act’s increasing use to combat fraud directed at public funds. This article also highlights the important differences between state False Claims Acts and the federal False Claims Act by focusing especially on one example, the new Georgia State False Medicaid Claims Act. Finally, this article also compares other states’ False Claims Acts, their retaliation provisions, and some of the recoveries that states have obtained to date.