How to File a Whistleblower Complaint

You suspect your employer is engaging in fraud and stealing money from the U.S. government. What do you do? Many Americans in similar circumstances decide to become whistleblowers.

But “blowing the whistle” on your company can be intimidating. Where do you start? And what if your company retaliates against you? Losing your job could have a huge impact on your life; personally, financially, and professionally. It’s understandable that you might think twice.

Keep in mind, though, that whistleblowers may be protected by federal law, and may receive significant financial compensation if the case succeeds. To get to that point, though, you’ll likely need legal help.

Whistleblower law is complicated, and it is usually best to work with an experienced whistleblower attorney who can guide you through the process. If you are considering filing a whistleblower complaint, the complex commercial litigation attorneys at Nix Patterson can help you.

Whistleblower Overview

A whistleblower is a worker or other individual who provides information proving a company’s fraud against the U.S. government.

In many cases, a whistleblower may simply disclose their knowledge to the government. In others, the whistleblower may file a lawsuit on the government’s behalf. This is known as a  qui tam lawsuit, where the whistleblower is called a qui tam relator. Relators may be protected from workplace retaliation under the False Claims Act (FCA).

What is a Qui Tam?

The federal False Claims Act (FCA) contains a provision that allows private citizens to sue on behalf of the government to recover fraudulently obtained funds.

Many states have enacted their own false claims acts, and certain states’ acts have qui tam mechanisms that operate in a similar fashion to the federal FCA.

Whistleblowers who file suit on the government’s behalf under the federal False Claims Act qui tam provision may be entitled to a reward related to the amount recovered — up to 30 percent, depending on the circumstances.

The FCA is one of the most successful policies in the federal government’s arsenal to root out corruption and fraud. In 2022, False Claim Act settlements from whistleblower lawsuits exceeded $2 billion. Since 1986, the government has recovered more than $72 billion whistleblower litigation.

Who Can File a False Claims Act Lawsuit?

The person filing must possess direct knowledge of the fraud that is allegedly occurring. This means you cannot file a whistleblower lawsuit based publicly available information

Whistleblowers file the case for the U.S. government, but attorneys handle the legal work. The attorneys involved share the qui tam Relator title if they file suit on behalf of their client.

The qui tam Relator provides documents to their attorneys supporting the fraud allegations. There must be specific details of fraud committed against the U.S. government. Most False Claims Act cases involve one or more of these violations:

  • Presenting a false claim to the government for approval or payment
  • Creating fraudulent statements or records to support a fraudulent claim to the government
  • Avoiding payment to the government what it is owed

How Do You File a Whistleblower Complaint?

Filing a whistleblower case is complicated. However, successful whistleblowers can reap significant financial rewards. To file your whistleblower complaint under the FCA, your whistleblower attorney may take the following steps:

Verify the False Claim

Before you file a whistleblower lawsuit, it is essential that you confirm the U.S. government has been or is being defrauded.

Liability under the FCA requires a defendant to (among certain other wrongs) present the government with a false or fraudulent claim for reimbursement or make a false statement that is material to a claim for reimbursement.

A false claim when someone steals money from the U.S. government, such as by submitting fake invoices or not paying a government agency money that they owe.

Gather Evidence

Your personal knowledge and evidence of the alleged fraud may greatly help your case. If you know of documents and related evidence that prove how the government is being defrauded, you should gather that information and provide it to your lawyer. However, be careful not to violate the law or your employment contract when gathering evidence.

The more evidence there is of the fraud, the stronger the potential lawsuit is. Your attorney will probably use your evidence to draft a lawsuit before consulting with government officials about the case.

Hire an Attorney

If you have evidence that a company is stealing money from the government and want to take action, you should promptly speak to a False Claims Act or whistleblower lawsuit attorney. Your lawyer can tell if you have enough evidence to pursue a whistleblower lawsuit. Your attorney will help you craft a strong whistleblower disclosure and complaint.


Filing a cause under the FCA requires a preliminary disclosure to the government of all material evidence and allegations you have against the defendants. Nix Patterson’s whistleblower attorneys have substantial experience presenting Relators and their cases to the federal government and to state governments.

File the Lawsuit Under Seal

After you and your lawyer disclose your case to the government, your attorney may file a qui tam lawsuit in federal court. The filing is sealed, meaning it will not be made part of public record until the court so orders. The defendants—the people or entities allegedly committing the fraud will not know about it until the court orders the case unsealed. This seal period is designed to give the government time to investigate your allegations without hinderance. 

The seal period lasts at least sixty days. In most cases, the government will request multiple six-month extensions of the seal period. Cases can remain under seal for years while the government conducts its investigation.


The seal period will end in coordination with the government’s intervention decision. At some point, the government must decide if it will (a) intervene in your case, (b) intervene in some but not all of your case, or (c) decline to intervene in your case.

The government only intervenes in a limited number of qui tam cases. If the government intervenes in some or all of the cases, it will take control over those claims and attempt to settle them. The government has substantial negotiating power, so most intervened cases settle.

In some circumstances, the government may permit a private citizen-relator to pursue recovery on its behalf even if it declines to intervene in the case. Nevertheless, the government retains control over any resolution of the case. And, the government may force a relator to dismiss their case. Your experienced whistleblower attorney can explain these decisions to you in detail and help you navigate any associated risks.

Assist the Government

After your whistleblower attorneys file your qui tam lawsuit, the government should investigate the matter and decide if it will take action. Statistically, the odds of recovery rise if the government opts to intervene and pursue recovery from defendants.

Your qui tam attorney has a critical role as the whistleblower case unfolds. Your attorney should stay in touch with government lawyers on the case and assist as much as possible.

If the government does not take action, you may still be able to pursue the case alone. That decision must be made by an experienced lawyer after reviewing the case evidence.

Exercise Patience

The government’s investigation may take years, depending on many factors. Whistleblowers should exercise patience during the investigation. 

Collect Compensation

If the government is successful in recovering funds on the basis of your whistleblower complaint, you may be entitled to compensation in the form of a percentage of the amounts recovered. Successful relators may be entitled to as much as thirty percent of the amounts recovered. Whistleblowers may also be entitled to compensation for workplace retaliation, including double back pay and reinstatement, as applicable.

As with any lawsuit, recovery is never guaranteed. FCA cases are procedurally complex, and Nix Patterson whistleblower attorneys can guide you through the process.

Contact Nix Patterson’s Whistleblower Attorneys Today

If you have evidence of corporate fraud involving U.S. government funds, you may need to file a whistleblower lawsuit. An experienced whistleblower attorney like the ones at Nix Patterson will safeguard your rights from beginning to end. Contact us today to discuss your whistleblower complaint case.

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