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No relator should file a qui tam claim with the expectation of long term anonymity. Generally, the identity of the relator will remain anonymous initially after the Complaint has been filed. However, if the case is successful, the identity of the relator will always become known. If the case is unsuccessful, the relator’s identity will generally not be disclosed to the defendant; however, there are no guarantees of long term anonymity even under these circumstances.
Confidentiality While the Claim is Under Seal
The identity of the relator will be kept confidential while the claim is under seal. During this time, the whistleblower’s identity will only be known to the government investigators and the Court. Under the False Claims Act, the seal must remain in place for at least 60 days; however, in most cases, the government will extend the time under seal for as long as two or three years in order to properly investigate the case. Therefore, as long as the government is investigating the case, the relator’s identity will remain anonymous.
While it is common for the defendant to become aware that it is under investigation during the seal period, it will not be made aware of the existence of a qui tam case unless the seal is lifted by the Court.
If the government decides to participate in the case, the seal is lifted and the Complaint is served on the defendants. At this time, the relator’s identity will become public knowledge. If the government declines to participate, the relator must decide whether to continue the litigation alone or to dismiss the claim.
Deciding Whether to Move Forward without Government Participation
If the relator decides to move forward with the qui tam claim without the government, the Complaint will be unsealed and served on the defendant. At this time, the relator’s identity will become public knowledge.
If the relator decides to dismiss the lawsuit, one of two situations may occur:
- The Court may leave the claim under seal, keeping the relator’s identity anonymous. The defendant would not be made aware of the existence of the Complaint.
- The Court may order the Complaint to be unsealed at the time of dismissal, making it a public document. Since it is not required to be served on the defendant, the Relator’s identity may still remain unknown to the defendant after the seal is lifted.
Partial Unsealing of Qui Tam Claims
On occasion, the government may seek a court order partially unsealing the claim in order to negotiate with the defendant. In these cases, the relator’s name can be deleted from documents provided to the defendant. However, if the claim is highly specific, the defendant may be able to determine the relator’s identity based on the details disclosed at the time of the partial unsealing.
Protecting Your Rights
The lawyers at Kenney & McCafferty will work hard to protect your rights and identity throughout the entire process. However, it is important to be aware that at some point, your identity will most likely be disclosed. At your initial consultation, our lawyers will discuss the potential consequences of your identity being disclosed in order to help you determine whether you want to move forward with the case.
If you have knowledge of a fraud or false claim against the government, please contact our qui tam lawyers today. Kenney & McCafferty attorneys will consult with you about your case, without obligation. All communications with Kenney & McCafferty attorneys during these consultation services are confidential and protected by the attorney-client privilege.