Supreme Court Tightens Rules Regarding Whistleblowers Who Qualify as “Original Sources” of Public Information in Litigation Under the False Claims Act

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The federal False Claims Act allows any person to file a qui tam lawsuit in the name of the United States to recover money obtained by government contractors by fraudulent means, and to keep a percentage of any money recovered. 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733. Persons who file such lawsuits are

called “relators” under the statute. The possibility that the False Claims Act might be abused by relators who file lawsuits based on information already publicly known caused Congress to enact a jurisdictional requirement that a relator be the “original source” of public information upon which any lawsuit is based. In Rockwell International Corp. v. U.S., decided on March 27, 2007, the Supreme Court reversed a jury verdict in favor of a relator because he did not qualify as an “original source” of publicly known allegations. However, while disqualifying the relator from recovering, the Supreme Court affirmed the jury verdict in favor of the United States.

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