The False Claims Act and the English Eradication of Qui Tam Legislation

J. Randy Beck, University of Georgia School of Law

North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 78, No. 3 (March 2000), pp. 539-642


Congress amended the False Claims Act in 1986 to encourage qui tam enforcement of the statute, which penalizes submission of false claims to the federal government. A qui tam statute authorizes a private citizen "informer" to file suit on behalf of the government for collection of a statutory forfeiture. A successful informer receives a share of the recovery. Qui tam enforcement came from England, where it served for centuries as the principal means of enforcing a wide range of statutes. England moved away from qui tam enforcement in the 1880s and abolished it altogether in 1951. In this Article, Professor Beck considers the recurring problems that beset English qui tam enforcement, the widespread contempt for informers, and the reasons for Parliament's eventual eradication of such legislation. He concludes that qui tam statutes contain an inherent conflict of interest because they afford informers a pecuniary interest that often conflicts with public interests at stake in the litigation. Professor Beck argues that this conflict explains the problems with English qui tam statutes and analogous problems under the False Claims Act. He recommends modifying the Act to preserve the benefits of qui tam enforcement while increasing the role of disinterested public prosecutors in enforcement.