Under the False Claims Act (FCA), individuals who knowingly submit false claims for payment of government funds are liable for three times the government's damages, plus civil penalties. The FCA also allows an individual to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the United States when he or she has information that another party submitted claims to the government that were false or fraudulent - AKA whistleblower or qui tam lawsuits.
While the Act has been in effect since the Civil War, the government has recently ramped up its focus. The law itself has been amended three times in the past year, says Robert Blume, partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. For instance, the recently-passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act included changes to the FCA that affect industries outside healthcare. Case in point: previously, a whistleblower couldn't pursue publicly disclosed claims on behalf of the US unless he or she was a direct, independent source of the information. Now, the individual needs only independent knowledge that materially adds to previously disclosed allegations, the law firm of Ropes & Gray reports.
Last year, Congress passed the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA), which made it a violation for a recipient of Federal funds to knowingly keep an overpayment.