When a whistleblower files a lawsuit under the False Claims Act (FCA) it is filed in camera and under seal, meaning in secret. This is referred to as the “seal period” in FCA cases.
When a whistleblower action is filed under seal, only the court and the Department of Justice (DoJ) have access to the allegations. The defendant is not notified that the whistleblower has filed. This is critical, as many whistleblowers are reporting the actions of their employers.
Initially, the complaint is under seal for a minimum of 60 days. 31 U.S.C § 3730(b)(2). Then, the seal can be extended by the government, while they investigate the allegations. See § 3730(b)(3). Typically, the extensions are for successive 180-day periods. Courts often extend the seal for years, allowing the government to investigate the whistleblower’s claim and develop a case. All the while, the defendant is unaware of the whistleblower’s actions.
The seal period ends when the government makes a decision on whether it will intervene in the case. When the government does intervene, nearly 90% of whistleblower claims are successful. If the government elects not to intervene, the whistleblower may voluntarily dismiss the case while the case is still under seal, maintaining anonymity.
The seal period is just one of the important protections afforded whistleblowers under the FCA.
If you have uncovered fraud against the government, contact the whistleblower attorneys at Miller Law Group today for a free and confidential consultation. You can also set up a consultation by calling us at (919) 348-4361.