False Claims – Comparing the Federal and Massachusetts Acts

To combat fraud by companies seeking to profit off government contracts and reimbursement programs, Congress and Massachusetts lawmakers enacted what are known as “False Claim” acts. The Federal False Claims Act (FCA) and the Massachusetts False Claims Act (MFCA) have similar purposes and are similarly designed, but they have distinct characteristics that set them apart.

One key difference lies in jurisdiction. The FCA is a federal law that applies nationwide, allowing the federal government to pursue cases involving false claims, such as fraudulent billing or overcharging, across all states. On the other hand, the MFCA is specific to the state of Massachusetts, giving the state authority to address false claims within the Commonwealth.

Another notable distinction is the scope of coverage. While both acts target fraudulent activities, they have variations in the types of claims they address. The FCA is broader in its coverage, encompassing a wide range of fraud against federal programs, including healthcare, defense contracts, and other federally funded initiatives. In contrast, the MFCA primarily focuses on false claims related to state funds, contracts and programs.

Penalties and enforcement mechanisms also differ between the two acts. Under the FCA, individuals who report fraud, known as whistleblowers, can file lawsuits on behalf of the government and are eligible to receive a percentage of the recovered funds. The federal government has the authority to intervene in these cases. In contrast, the MFCA encourages private citizens to report fraud, but for the most part, the state Attorney General must decide whether to intervene in the case.

Additionally, the penalties for violations vary. The FCA imposes significant fines, often triple the damages sustained by the government, along with additional penalties per false claim. In Massachusetts, the MFCA includes fines and penalties as well, but the specific amounts may differ from those outlined in the federal law.

Procedural differences also exist. The process for filing a qui tam lawsuit, where a private individual initiates legal action on behalf of the government, involves distinct steps under each act. Understanding these procedures is crucial for potential whistleblowers seeking to expose fraud and pursue legal action.

In conclusion, while both the FCA and the MFCA aim to combat fraud against the government, differences in jurisdiction, scope, penalties and enforcement mechanisms highlight the unique characteristics of each. Individuals navigating these legal landscapes must be aware of the specific provisions and procedures associated with the relevant act to effectively address and rectify false claims.


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