Whistleblowers: Filing a Complaint under Seal

An experienced whistleblower attorney knows that whistleblowers have proven to be a valuable asset to the federal government, as well as other organizations. Accordingly, because of the need to allow the government to investigate allegations of fraud without the defendant knowing and to protect whistleblowers, the process for False Claims Act lawsuits is less publicized initially than a regular lawsuit. In general, the lawsuit starts once the whistleblower has filed a complaint.  That complaint is filed “under seal,” which means that every record that is filed will be kept secret and only the judge, the U.S. Attorney, and a few select individuals from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) will be privy to the complaint and any other documents filed with it.

Along with the complaint, the whistleblower is required to file a disclosure statement with the DOJ that names all of the evidence that he or she has in support the allegations discussed in the complaint. This disclosure statement will remain a secret to everybody except DOJ, and it will not be filed in court. A False Claims Act attorney will inform you that once the complaint has been filed, it stays “under seal” for 60 days, and during this timeframe, the DOJ is required to explore all of the violations that were purported in the complaint.  Note that the DOJ can choose to work with the FBI or any other law enforcement agencies during its investigation, and if the DOJ needs additional time to finish the investigation, it can ask the court to extend the amount of time that the complaint stays “under seal.”

When the DOJ finishes investigating the allegations, it can choose to do one of three options: (1) decline to intervene in the lawsuit (in which case, the whistleblower can continue on with the lawsuit on behalf of the government); (2) intervene in the lawsuit (which means that the government will continue the lawsuit under its own direction and it might limit the whistleblower’s participation); (3) or ask the court to dismiss the complaint because no case exists or it conflicts with certain governmental interests.

Once the government makes its decision on whether or not to intervene, the complaint is unsealed when the court orders, and it is served on the parties accused of defrauding the government. The lawsuit will then proceed just like a regular lawsuit, with only a few differences.

If you believe that you would benefit from having the services of an experienced whistleblower attorney, please call Indiana lawyer Lane Siesky at (812) 402-7700 for a free consultation.