June 24, 2024

Historical Evolution: How Qui Tam Has Evolved Over Time

The term “qui tam,” derived from the Latin phrase “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur,” translates to “he who brings an action for the king as well as for himself.” This concept has a storied history dating back to ancient Rome and medieval England. Early instances of qui tam saw private citizens, known as ‘delatores’ in Rome, initiating prosecutions and receiving a portion of the defendant’s forfeited property. By the 14th century, the English Parliament had enacted several qui tam statutes, such as the 1318 Statute of York and the 1328 Statute of Northampton, encouraging private citizens to enforce the law by granting them a share of the recovered goods. These provisions laid the foundational principles that would evolve into what we know as qui tam today, paving the way for future relators to report fraud and protect the government.

Supreme Court of the United States

In the American colonies, the qui tam concept was embraced and codified through various laws enacted by the First Continental Congress. However, it was during the Civil War that the most significant qui tam legislation emerged: the False Claims Act of 1863. Promoted by President Abraham Lincoln, this act aimed to curb the rampant fraud against the Union Army, such as companies delivering sawdust instead of guns and reselling the same horses multiple times. The FCA empowered any private citizen, or “relator,” to file a qui tam lawsuit on behalf of the government against those committing fraud, allowing them to receive up to 50% of the recovered damages. This legislation marked a pivotal moment in the fight against fraud, establishing a powerful legal tool to hold wrongdoers accountable.

Since the revitalization of the False Claims Act by the 1986 Amendments, the government has aggressively pursued civil, criminal, and administrative actions against those who defraud the federal treasury through kickbacks, fraudulent claims, or off-label marketing. The U.S. government, along with qui tam lawyer firms and relators, has been fervently pursuing qui tam claims, with the Department of Justice reporting nearly $6 billion in FCA recoveries in fiscal year 2014 alone.

Since the 1986 amendments to the FCA, over $15.6 billion has been recovered through settlements and judgments, with $13.2 billion from qui tam cases. Whistleblowers alone have received $1.4 billion of this total. Statistical data shows trends in qui tam cases, highlighting the total cases filed and recoveries by the Justice Department. In 2020, whistleblowers filed 672 qui tam suits, resulting in Justice Department recoveries over $1.6 billion. The first half of 2021 saw FCA resolutions totaling more than $393 million, although there were no nine-figure settlements. Historically, recoveries where the Justice Department intervened have reached $41.8 billion, compared to $2.7 billion in cases they declined. This shows the significant impact of the FCA and qui tam provisions in fighting government fraud.

Although healthcare fraud and medical malpractice, particularly involving Medicaid and Medicare, remains the leading source of qui tam litigation, significant recoveries have also been made in other areas such as: defense contracting, financial services, environmental regulation, oil, gas, mining, and scientific research. The False Claims Act has proven to be a necessary tool in protecting taxpayer money and holding corrupt entities accountable, demonstrating its enduring importance since its beginning during the Civil War.

qui tam

Today, the False Claims Act, with its qui tam provisions, continues to be in action against government fraud. A qui tam whistleblower plays a vital role in identifying and exposing fraudulent activities. The advancements in our world’s access to technology most certainly attributes to fraud and hidden agendas. Digital tools have unfortunately opened the door to methods by which people execute wrongdoing. Masking their true intentions and sandwiching themselves between a computer and a blank form. Justice in cases of deceitful practices is often delivered by the digital tools, but this time in the hands of the unsung hero of the legal world – the whistleblower. A brave witness, documenting and addressing the fraud with a phone camera, voice recording app, many saved messages and emails, etc. Social media and digital platforms have transformed whistleblower case details, bringing a new level of transparency, accessibility, and influence. In these ways, technology has proven to also protect our government and relator heroes.

Berg & Androphy‘s great efforts of protecting qui tam whistleblower clients and offering top-tier counsel places them in a class of expert legal advocates. The evolution of the qui tam lawsuit from its historical roots to its current significance under the federal FCA exemplifies the enduring power of this legal mechanism in protecting public interests and holding individuals and companies accountable for their actions. Berg and Androphy is proud to excel in this frame of legal work, championing justice through each qui tam case they handle.