The False Claims Act bars whistleblower claims based on information in the public domain. What this means practically is that you can’t file a whistleblower case based on something you read in the news (unless you contribute your own special expertise in interpreting the news in a non-obvious manner). The law is meant to strike a balance between encouraging meritorious cases while simultaneously discouraging so-called “parasitic” lawsuits based on non-original, public information. Basically, Congress intended to prevent opportunistic lawsuits based on information that the government already knows or already reported by the media.
Different courts have their own way of interpreting the public disclosure and original source requirements of the False Claims Act. In the District of Columbia Circuit, whistleblowers do not need to have been the source of public disclosure but they still need to have filed a claim prior to public disclosure. Other Circuits disagree. The Sixth Circuit, in particular, requires that whistleblowers file a lawsuit before public disclosure and also to have been the source of disclosure.
In determining whether a potential claim is viable, your whistleblower attorney will analyze whether there has been a public disclosure and if so, whether the whistleblower was the original source of the public disclosure. If the basis for a case has already been publicly disclosed, the whistleblower may be ineligible to file a case unless the whistleblower was the original source of the information.
Because courts are continually interpreting the public disclosure and original source provisions of the False Claims Act, whistleblowers are encouraged to seek qualified counsel when considering whether to file a qui tam claim. At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our whistleblower attorneys are prepared to provide high-caliber legal representation for whistleblowers helping to stamp out fraud against the government. If you have information regarding financial fraud against a government program (common examples include overbilling, billing for unnecessary services, and overstating costs), please contact us today for a free consultation with an attorney.