In January 2020, the U.S. Department of Commerce published new rates for the civil penalties payable in False Claims Act whistleblower cases. The new rates set the sanction for each false claim filed with the government between a minimum of $11,463 and a maximum of $23,331.
Amendments made to the False Claims Act in 1986, the False Claims Act, increased the penalties charged to fraudsters who engaged in contracting or procurement fraud against the United States. As part of the enhanced penalties, Congress increased the amount of civil penalties fraudsters must pay for every fraudulent invoice submitted to the government. These penalties can often run into the millions of dollars and are payable regardless of the amount of actual damages caused by the fraud.
The False Claims Act, as amended, established a civil penalty of “not less than $5,000 and not more than $10,000, as adjusted by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990,” in addition to treble damages. Under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act, the civil penalties under the False Claims Act have substantially increased to a maximum level of $23,331.00.
According to qui tam attorney Stephen M. Kohn, “in order to deter fraud, it is essential that anti-corruption laws such as the False Claims Act have large penalties. The civil penalty provision is intended to ensure that appropriate sanctions are given to fraudsters, even if there is no proof of actual damages.”
The 1986 Senate Report on the False Claims Act whistleblower amendments explained the function of the civil penalty provision of the Act: “The imposition of this forfeiture is automatic and mandatory for each claim which is found to be false. The United States is entitled to recover such forfeitures solely upon proof that false claims were made, without proof of any damages.”