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What Does Qui Tam Mean?
What does “Qui Tam” Mean?
“Qui Tam” means a type of law suit where a private person, known as a “relator,” can sue another person or entity on behalf of the government and receive a percentage of any recovery as a reward.
Usually there has to be a qui tam provision in a statute in order for a relator to have legal standing to sue on behalf of the government.
A typical qui tam provision says, in substance, a relator must give all relevant information to the government to investigate and if government declares at the conclusion of its investigation that it is not interested in pursuing the matter then the relator can proceed with the case on his or her own. Of course, the government also has the option of joining the case and taking control over it.
Not all whistleblower statutes have qui tam provisions. The most commonly used whistleblower statutes with qui tam provisions are the federal False Claims Act and various state false claims acts.
Neither the SEC nor the IRS whistleblower laws, for example, have qui tam provisions. With those whistleblower programs, a person simply notifies the government investigators of his or her allegations and waits for the outcome, which could be good, bad or inconclusive.
Usually, a qui tam relator is entitled to a larger reward in a successful case where the government declines to intervene than he or she can recover if the government chooses to join the case. However, pursuing a case that the government has declined is not entirely risk-free. Among other things, if the relator loses the case, he or she might have to pay the other side’s attorneys’ fees.
For these reasons it makes the most sense to speak to a qui tam attorney early on to see if you have a potential case and, if so, what are the pros and cons for your specific matter.