G. False claims act proceedings

Overview

The False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b), allows individuals to bring qui tam actions on behalf of the government. The statute provides that “[t]he complaint shall be filed in camera, shall remain under seal for at least 60 days, and shall not be served on the defendant until the court so orders.” Still, the statute contemplates that the suits will eventually become public. In Under Seal v. Under Seal, 27 F.3d 564, 564 (4th Cir. 1994) (unpublished), the Fourth Circuit found that a trial court acted within its discretion in “refusing to impose a permanent seal on a qui tam complaint” in part because “long-established common law right of access to judicial records filed in court.”

Florida

Sections 68.081-68.09, Florida Statutes, is the Florida False Claims Act. The purpose of the Florida False Claims Act is to deter persons from knowingly causing or assisting in causing state government to pay claims that are false or fraudulent, and to provide remedies for obtaining treble damages and civil penalties for state government when money is obtained from state government by reason of a false or fraudulent claim. A qui tam action must be filed under seal, and must be accompanied by a comprehensive memorandum, not filed in court, but served on the government, detailing the facts of the complaint, together with copies of all relevant documents. It is not permissible for the attorney or the relator/whistleblower to discuss the case or to disclose its existence to anyone, including the defendant and the media. (However, while the name or identity of the individual disclosing this information is confidential, the initial report of wrongdoing received by the municipality is a public record, because that information was received before an investigation began). Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 98-37 (1998).

See also, Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 96-40 (1996) (a town may not require a complainant to sign a waiver of confidentiality before accepting a whistle-blower's complaint for processing since the Legislature has provided for confidentiality of the whistle-blower's identity).

Under Section 69.081(8), Florida Statutes, confidentiality provisions in whistleblower settlement agreements should be void.