What is The Biggest Qui Tam in History?

There have been a lot of famous examples of qui tam cases, so the answer to this could depend on how you define big. Do you mean how much money was collected? Do you mean how many different government agencies were involved? How many defendants?

Biggest Civil Fines in a Qui Tam Case

The answers may change soon as new cases are being settled even today. However, as far as money goes, the biggest civil fine imposed under the Federal False Claims Act for one consolidated case is two billion dollars (Yes, $2,000,000,000) and it was levied against GlaxoSmithKline.

The civil fines and penalties were assessed under a consolidated case combining the federal and several state false claims laws for illegal marketing practices related to several drugs sold through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The company also had to pay criminal penalties amounting to approximately another one billion dollars, but individual plaintiffs—the people who reported the violations—are not allowed to get a share of any criminal penalty assessed under current law. To read more about the case, see the Department of Justice press release.

While the case may be the largest payment by a defendant under the False Claims Act, there were several plaintiffs who shared in the recovery. So the largest recovery for any False Claims Act case may not be the same. There were also several allegations involving the illegal marketing of several different drugs involved in this case.

Largest Case Involving a Jury Verdict

Currently, the thirty-sixth biggest award is also the largest case involving an actual jury verdict. This reflects the reality that most big cases actually settle. Actavis paid a global settlement of two hundred and two million dollars ($202,000,000) to end all litigation after losing a jury trial in Texas. Not a bad haul for the 36th biggest case. So far, though, more big cases arrive all the time.

Largest Recovery by a Whistleblower

It is generally believed—though some figures are not entirely available to the public to confirm this—that the largest award to any single whistleblower for any one case went to Bradley Birkenfeld. He was awarded 104 million dollars by the IRS for reporting providing information that led to a fine of 780 Million dollars against his former employer UBS Bank. This is not a Federal False Claims case, but rather a whistleblower action filed under the special IRS whistleblower reward law.

The case involves several twists of fate, not the least of which is that Mr. Birkenfeld served time in federal prison after admitting to having a role in UBS Bank’s scheme of hiding money (a lot of money) from the IRS. Mr. Birkenfeld is out of prison now and was awarded his money in 2012.

It is worth noting that his award was directly related to the 780 Million Dollar fine levied against UBS. The actual amount of money that the government may be collecting as a result of his particular information is probably much higher. Amnesty programs and the publicity involved have led to assets being reported to the IRS which otherwise would likely have gone on in secret for many years. In blowing the whistle on UBS, Mr. Birkenfeld really upended an entire financial practice that goes back years and years.