A Brief History of the False Claims Act

Worse than traitors in arms are men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the nation while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains of the South and their countrymen are moldering in the dust. — Abraham Lincoln, regarding the False Claims Act

The False Claims Act (FCA) is one of many federal enactments that could be characterized as a whistleblower law. In fact, it is also one of the oldest and most well-known.

The False Claims Act has existed statutorily in America for more than 150 years — it was enacted in 1863 under the Lincoln administration in order to address widespread corruption within the supply lines of the Union Army in the midst of the Civil War. At that time, the FCA had several prominent features, including the following:

  • Liability to the government for double the actual damages for any false claim knowingly submitted
  • An additional penalty of $2,000 for each false claim
  • A provision allowing private citizens to initiate legal action on behalf of the government

The third feature, often called qui tam, first developed in England in the 13th Century. The full phrase, “Qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur,” is Latin for “He who brings a case on behalf of our lord the King and for himself.” While these types of suits were a fairly common feature of English common law, the adoption of the FCA fully embraced the concept in America.

From its 19th Century American origins, the False Claims Act has continued to develop, increasing the available penalties and formalizing the legal process necessary for bringing a qui tam claim. Procedure is crucial in these types of cases, making legal support from an experienced Texas whistleblower attorney essential when exposing corruption of all types, including in an action on behalf of the government.