Qui tam, under the False Claims Act (FCA), allows a private citizen to present evidence of fraud against federal programs and sue the wrongdoer on behalf of the U.S. Once a qui tam action has been filed, the government has the option to intervene in the action. If the government declines to intervene, the private citizen can choose to continue the action on his or her own.
Under the FCA, violators can be fined three times the amount of damages to the government in addition to civil penalties. Civil penalties for these cases can range between $5,500 to $11,000 per false claim violation.
Qui tam filers are able to receive a portion of the damages. The plaintiff in a qui tam case can get between 15 to 30 percent of the damages recovered and would be determined through a judgement or settlement. The filer can only receive the reward if he or she officially files a complaint, not if he or she simply informs the government. If the qui tam action is successful, the filer can also receive assistance for legal fees.
In addition, there are built-in “whistleblower” protections under the False Claims Act. These protections include reinstatement if the employee is discharged or demoted from their position or given compensation for any damages including legal and attorney’s fees. This is designed to protect the filer from retaliation from their employer.
The complaint against Webster University filed by Webster employee Vincent Stovall would qualify as a Qui Tam action, according to Thomas SanFilippo of The Law Firm of Thomas SanFilippo and Associates, LLC.