THE FALSE CLAIMS ACT
Many of the Fraud Section’s cases are suits filed under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729 – 3733, a federal statute originally enacted in 1863 in response to defense contractor fraud during the American Civil War.
The FCA provided that any person who knowingly submitted false claims to the government was liable for double the government’s damages plus a penalty of $2,000 for each false claim. The FCA has been amended several times and now provides that violators are liable for treble damages plus a penalty that is linked to inflation.
In addition to allowing the United States to pursue perpetrators of fraud on its own, the FCA allows private citizens to file suits on behalf of the government (called “qui tam” suits) against those who have defrauded the government. Private citizens who successfully bring qui tam actions may receive a portion of the government’s recovery. Many Fraud Section investigations and lawsuits arise from such qui tam actions.
The Department of Justice obtained more than $2.2 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2020. More information about those recoveries can be found here and the 2020 FCA statistics can be found here.