What is a Qui Tam suit?
The federal government, most states and many local governments have a law that allows a private citizen to bring suit against a contractor on behalf of the government alleging fraud or misuse of government funds. Such suits are known as Qui Tam suits. Qui tam is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur, which means "[he] who sues in this matter for the king as [well as] for himself."
The person who initiates the Qui Tam suit is called the "relator." Qui Tam suits are typically filed under seal and provide a period of time for the government to decide if it will intervene in the suit. If the government intervenes, it takes over from the relator as the party primarily responsible for pursuing the suit. The statute that authorizes Qui Tam suits is called the False Claims Act (FCA).
Why would someone file a Qui Tam suit?
A private person who learns of government procurement or government program fraud and files a Qui Tam suit has a right to share in any money recovered by the government and to have attorney's fees paid by the company committing the fraud.
Does the government recover much from Qui Tam suits?
Since the law was amended in 1986 to make it easier to file such suits, the government has recovered over $15,000,000,000.00 under the False Claims Act.
Are Qui Tam suits limited to defense contractors?
No. A Qui Tam action can be brought against any government contractor. For the last several years, the majority of Qui Tam suits have involved health care claims. In 2009, the Federal False Claims Act was modified to remove many of the burdens to bringing a Qui Tam suit.