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The term qui tam comes from a Latin phrase meaning, "who as well for the king as for himself sues in this matter" and generally refers to type of case which is brought by a "relator" under a particular statute which allows the relator to recover penalties from a particular wrongdoer in a civil action, part of which will go to the realtor and part of which will go the government.
The Federal Civil False Claims Act (FCA) is one of the more common qui tam statutes that allows private citizens to file a lawsuit in the name of the U.S. Government charging fraud by government contractors and others who receive or use government funds, and share in any money recovered.
Congress created the FCA to allow for more effective prosecution of companies and persons committing acts of fraud against the government and to allow the government to recover lost revenue caused by the fraud. Sometime these case will result in wrongdoers entering into large settlements without admitting liability; from this settlement the relator may receive a percentage.
Frequently it is an employee or former employee who has the "inside knowledge" necessary to successfully bring a qui tam action. In such cases, recent amendments have provided such employees with important protections against retaliation by the employer.
There are many obstacles to bringing a qui tam action such as "public disclosure" and "original source" requirements. It is advisable to contact an attorney prior to disclosing the illegal conduct in order to ensure that any potential rights as a relator are preserved.
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