‘Qui tam’: The citizens’ sword

Civil lawsuits such as the one brought by former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager are known as “qui tam” cases. The word is taken from a Latin phrase that means, “He who brings the action for the king as well as himself.”

Such cases are filed under a state or federal False Claims Act by a whistleblower; the government then decides whether or not to intervene along with that individual, known as a relator. In a typical qui tam case, the relator may be rewarded — and funds may be recovered for the government and the whistleblower — if the case is won.

Exact percentages vary based on the role of the whistleblower and his or her attorney in exposing the fraud, but the national average for whistleblower awards in False Claims Act settlements is around 16 percent, according to Taxpayers Against Fraud.

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