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False Claims Acts: Should They Be Sealed?

2087 words - 9 pages

Running head: FALSE CLAIMS ACTS: 1
SHOULD THEY BE SEALED?

False Claims Acts: Should they be sealed?
Becky L. Garcia

Abstract

Throughout history the United States Government has been responsible for massive expenditures for government operations involving taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, with all the different organizations and transactions transpiring, there have become endless opportunities for fraud or deceptive practices. The government enacted the False Claims Act for help in controlling the deceptive practices and additionally giving them a viable tool to expose the fraudulent acts. The False Claims Act allows a whistleblower or “qui tam” to come forward and ...view middle of the document...

One action within the FCA that has been a large discussion topic and even challenged, is the sealing of the claims. The decision, reasoning, and rationale for the sealing of the claims are very important for the whistleblower and should not be considered unconstitutional but rather a constitutional right of protection and anonymity.
1) What is the False Claims Act?
The government was having many problems as far back as the Civil War with fraud and abuse by companies or government contractors selling supplies to the Union Army. Many millions of dollars were being swindled out of the government from supplies: like moth-eaten blankets, unhealthy horses, or boxes of sawdust that were supposed to be guns. The government needed help with all the fraud taken place with these government purchases. The help came by way of Congress enacting and passing into law in 1863, with President Abraham Lincoln being a strong supporter, the False Claims Act (FCA). FCA was also referred to or known as the “Lincoln Law,” since Lincoln was President at the time.
The FCA included the important provision of “qui tam,” which “allowed private citizens to sue, on the government’s behalf, companies and individuals that were defrauding the government” (“History of,” 2007). The Latin phrase of “qui tam” is the first two words in a long Latin phrase that is interpreted as “Who sues on behalf of the King as well as for himself” (Qui Tam, 2012). This act was very important and vital in allowing the private citizen to help with the federal officials in combating the fraud.
The penalties assessed when FCA was first enacted, entailed the individuals that committed the fraud to pay twice the damages and also a $2,000 fine was imposed for every false claim. The reward the citizens got for turning a case or claim in was fifty percent of the damages recovered by the government.
The FCA primarily continued through the years with minor changes until 1943, and the Congress made provisions. The provisions started with changing the fifty percent received by the private citizen or whistleblower, thus reducing the claims reported. Additionally, a change was made with the FCA stating that if the government already had information or evidence of the fraud, it would prohibit a qui tam lawsuit. With just these changes or amendments to the FCA, the claims almost ceased to exist.
The FCA was not looked at again until over forty years later, when in the 1980’s more rampant rumors or reports of fraud from contractors against the government. Much of the reports were during the Cold War and the defense spending. Numerous reports were made that the government was paying outrageous amounts for equipment or services, like over $400 for a hammer. These reports were cause for investigations, and leading the government to revise the FCA, again encouraging whistle blowers to come forward and help the government combat the fraud. The FCA was reformed in 1986 allowing the whistle blower to...

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