Any citizen with knowledge of a fraud committed against the U.S. government may bring a lawsuit on behalf of the government against those who committed the fraud. If the case is successful, the individual may obtain an award up to 30 percent of the funds recovered. In California, a person who brings a successful lawsuit for a fraud committed against the state may be entitled to an award up to 33 percent of the recovery.
These cases are often referred to as qui tam actions. The phrase “qui tam” is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur, which means “He who brings an action for the king as well as for himself.” This quaint language reflects the history of qui tam cases which trace back to the 13th Century England when qui tam actions were used as a way to enforce the King's laws.
Qui tam lawsuits in the U.S are well anchored in law. The Federal False Claims Act authorizes lawsuits by individual citizens against third parties for frauds perpetrated on the U.S. government. In almost identical language, The California False Claims Act does the same for frauds perpetrated on the State of California or any of its political subdivisions.
The statutes come into play in most situations where the government has been cheated, which can happen in an almost infinite number of ways. The most common include healthcare fraud, defense contractor fraud, and, more recently, financial fraud. The fraud can also target any U.S. agency or, in the case of California, any state agency and any political subdivision, such as city, county, or school district.
The skills needed to successfully prosecute these cases are the skills of a trial attorney who knows how to prove a fraud case. Regarding Mr. Aguirre’s skills in this area, please see the Aguirre bio.