Federal False Claims Act Cases Are Not Just About Money
First off, I am — as regular readers know — a lawyer focusing on complex civil litigation. Mostly, my cases concern the federal False Claims Act, the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, and the false claims statutes of various states. In each of those cases, I have a qui tam relator as my client — i.e., an individual with non-public knowledge of fraud on the government.
As part of my efforts to keep my clients focused on what we can do — as opposed to what we can’t do — I try to focus them on the money we can recover if our case succeeds. This is for sound, practical reasons that have nothing to do with money. Rather, it is because, as noted above, I am lawyer focusing on civil litigation. We (that is, me and my clients) can’t raise the dead or heal the sick , and we can’t put anyone in prison on our own. We also can’t fix large problems in society.
Instead, all that we can do is focus on the one case at hand and develop it as best we can. In the parlance law practice (and elsewhere) this is called controlling the client’s expectations. It is always important to what lawyers do, but in qui tam/FCA cases it is especially important. Many times, qui tam relators will want the bad guy to go to prison or receive some other non-monetary punishment, and that is something we just can’t deliver on our own.
That being said, one of the nice things about this area of practice is that each case we successfully prosecute does do a bit of good. At a minimum, some money is returned to the U.S. Treasury (or the treasury of a state, or both) and one or more bad actors is brought to task. Hopefully, those same bad actors won’t go on to submit more false claims in the future. Perhaps also some other folks who were thinking of trying the same thing will read about the case and think better of thier scheme.
But I wouldn’t count on most of those rosy outcomes, at least not in every case. Nope, federal FCA cases are mostly about money.
Note that I said mostly — the recent case of Dr. Javaid Perwaiz shows that federal false claims act cases are not just about money. Important goals like patient safety are also accomplished using this law. Here is a sample of the recent coverage of Dr. Perwaiz’s practice:
The indictment reads like a true horror story, and check out the declaration filed in support of the indictment. This is, of course, just one example and it is a local one in the EDVA…but it is still an example of the good that can be done…
Stay tuned for more on this developing saga…