What Is Qui Tam?
The term “Qui Tam” literally means “he who sues on behalf of the king as well as himself,” and is derived from the Latin qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur.
Qui Tam is a provision in the False Claims Act which allows individuals who have knowledge of fraud against the government to file civil lawsuits against these entities on behalf of the government, and to ultimately share in the money recovered. This law is one of the most powerful tools that individual private citizens have, to expose and litigate against contractors and other entities, who they know have defrauded the government.
The concept of litigating against a person or entity who has committed fraud against the government, in exchange for a reward, is not exactly new. It can be traced back to medieval England, where private individuals were encouraged to help in maintaining law and order, in exchange for a monetary reward. The lack of organized law enforcement meant that such laws encouraged citizens to act as police officers, with a reward for their trouble. This not only helped maintain order, but also rewarded citizens for their effort.
Cut to centuries later, and modern Qui Tam provisions, although immensely more complex and sophisticated, involve the same benefits. They allow individuals who have knowledge of fraud against the government, to use this knowledge to litigate against these entities, and recover the defrauded funds, with the promise of a reward in the form of a share of the recovered funds. Qui Tam provisions provide a powerful incentive for individual citizens who have this knowledge, to come forward and work together, with or without the cooperation of government agencies, in order to recover the money. They also act as a deterrent to those individuals who are considering fraud against the government.
Qui Tam provisions are contained in the False Claims Act, which was passed in 1863 during the Lincoln administration. Since then, the Act has undergone several amendments, which chipped away at its power to incentivize whistle blowing. Finally in 1986, new amendments expanded the scope of the Qui Tam provisions, allowing more numbers of persons, directly or indirectly involved in fraud, to be included.
Since 1986, these stronger Qui Tam provisions have resulted in more than 4,000 successful claims, ending with many billions of dollars worth of damages in awards and settlements. From Medicare fraud to defense kickbacks, and diverted research funds to pharmaceutical fraud, Qui Tam statutes have allowed thousands of American citizens to boldly come forward to prosecute government fraud.