The law allows the government to pursue any government contractor suspected of making “false claims” about their goods or services to the government. The law also allows third-party whistleblowers (called qui tam relators) to sue in the name of the government and to keep a large part of any recovery. The statute also allows for treble damages (damages three times the amount of the alleged fraud) as well as significant penalties. Recently the DOJ moved to dismiss some qui tam FCA cases, signifying a positive change in an attempt to address substantial abuse regarding FCA cases. The DOJ has also made several important and helpful policy changes that provide credit to companies that have appropriate compliance programs, self-report FCA violations, assist the investigation and remediate any harm done to the government.
While the need for an anti-fraud statute is clear, plaintiffs’ lawyers have benefited enormously from these FCA lawsuits. Broad language and over-enforcement practices have stimulated significant abuse, turning, in some cases, what should be simple disagreements and paperwork errors into claims for fraud. The U.S. Chamber Institute of Legal Reform (ILR) actively works to promote reforms that will restore fairness and transparency.