Chicago – The Department of Justice issued an internal memorandum on January 10, 2018, which was soon released publicly and can be found here. The memorandum was quickly praised by the False Claims Act defense bar, but a reasoned review of the memorandum shows that the plaintiff bar should also welcome the policy statements outlined in the memorandum.
First, let’s establish a little background. The FCA is a statute that allows people to file a lawsuit on behalf of the government alleging that someone submitted a false claim or false or fraudulent demand for payment. These are typically Medicare or Medicaid claims, Department of Defense claims, or infrastructure projects. A person filing the lawsuit is known as a “relator” and is eligible to receive an award if the claim is successful. A relator is generally entitled to an award of between 15 and 30% of the amount the government recovers.
After a claim is filed the government conducts an investigation and decides whether to join the lawsuit by intervening or not join the lawsuit and file a declination in which case the person who filed the lawsuit can pursue the lawsuit on the government’s behalf without the government’s assistance. Either way, the government is always the real party in interest and must approve all settlements or dismissals and has the ability to seek dismissal of a case under 31 U.S.C. 3730(c)(2)(A).