When a qui tam action is served on the DOJ and U.S. Attorney, coordination between those agencies and the relator’s attorney normally begins. Many qui tam attorneys have established a good working relationship with certain DoJ attorneys and U.S. Attorneys in their area that has helped them to better coordinate their cases, sometimes before the case is filed.
Establishing a good working relationship with DOJ and the U.S. Attorney’s office, can help to facilitate a better understanding of your case and the best approach to investigating it. Although the DOJ often delegates the investigative responsibility to the U.S. Attorney, it still directs many of them and serves as the ultimate arbiter whether they will intervene. Be aware that when actions are filed, the DOJ, especially, has a tendency to negatively pre-judge your case. Sometimes, the DOJ will elicit some advice from the governmental department, such as the Defense Department, that is effected by the charges. This can help or hinder your case depending on the politics. It is not unusual, especially for DOD cases, for military officials whose department is affected by the qui tam, to try and lobby the DoJ that the charges have no merit in order to protect their program. This problem has led to many good cases being poorly investigated, or not being investigated at all, and subsequently declined. It also has not been unusual for the DoJ and some relator’s attorney to develop animosity toward each other. This usually develops from a lack of understanding or distrust both may have toward each other.
Good coordination and establishing good lines of communication is necessary to better understand what the DoJ and government investigators are doing to your case. It is also important in establishing the attitude that both the government and the relator are partners in the action and therefore on the same side. Despite this, there have been instances where the government – the DoJ especially, has treated the relator and his or her attorney(s) with disdain and disrespect as if they were adversaries.
If you establish a good working relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s office, and the DoJ delegates the investigative responsibility to that office, you have a much better chance of success. It is no secret that U.S. Attorneys, as a general rule, are far more motivated, aggressive and successful in pursuing qui tam cases than DoJ attorney’s.
Also, establishing good coordination and a working relationship with the government investigators assigned to your case will be beneficial. Your ability to achieve that will depend on a number of factors including what agency is involved, the individual investigators assigned and the DoJ attorney, or U.S. Attorney, assigned to the case.
DoJ has the tendency to want to control all contacts between the relator’s attorney and the government investigators and sometimes will outright direct that the investigators have no contact with either the relator or the relator’s attorney without going through the DoJ. This is usually not as much of a problem if the investigation is being coordinated through the U.S. Attorney’s office. Again, it will depend on how successful you are at establishing a good relationship with the U.S. Attorney. There has been precedence established in some cases where the relator’s attorney and investigators have worked well with the government investigators in pursuing the investigation, but it has been more the exception, not the rule.
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