by David L. Lewis, Ph.D.
September 30, 2010
In 1863, under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, Congress passed the False Claims Act to recover taxpayer funds looted from the U.S. Treasury through fraudulent claims. Included in the False Claims Act were "Qui tam" provisions, which allow private citizens with both direct and independent knowledge of such acts of fraud to file lawsuits on behalf of the U.S. Government and receive a portion of the money recovered. Qui tam is short for a Latin phrase that loosely translates: "He who sues on behalf of the king and himself."
In 2005, Andy McElmurray, William Boyce, and I filed a qui tam lawsuit over a grant used to support research on treated sewage sludge (biosolids), which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had awarded to the University of Georgia Research Foundation in 1999.1 The grant, according to our lawsuit, was used to publish fraudulent data in order to support an EPA program that poses a serious threat to public health and the environment. The U.S. District Court in Athens recently dismissed our case based on an issue over which the courts are divided, which involves the use of Freedom of Information Act and Open Records documents.