Qui tam (which can be pronounced kwee tom, among other ways) is a shortened version of the Latin phrase “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro sic ipso in hoc parte sequitur,” which means “who as well for the king as for himself sues in this matter.” Black’s Law Dictionary defines a qui tam action as “an action brought by an informer, under a statute which establishes a penalty for the commission or omission of a certain act, and provides that the same shall be recoverable in a civil action, part of the penalty to go to any person who will bring such action and the remainder to the state or some other institution.”
In simpler terms, qui tam laws allow private individuals with knowledge of fraud against the government to sue the party committing the fraud on behalf of the government and to keep part of the money recovered. Qui tam is a provision of the federal False Claims Act.This unique law was enacted by Congress in order to effectively identify and prosecute government procurement and program fraud and recover revenue lost as a result of the fraud.
The qui tam provision has had the effect of privatizing government legal remedies by allowing private citizens to act as “private attorneys general” in the effort to prosecute government procurement and program fraud. Although most of the early successes in qui tam actions have been against defense contractors, more and more actions are being filed that involve other governmental agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Education, NASA, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Transportation. Recoveries under the False Claims Act have totaled more than $28 billion since 1986, when the law was significantly amended.
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