Happy Birthday, False Claims Act

The False Claims Act, also known as Lincoln’s Law, was passed by Congress on March 2, 1863, making the law a ripe old 147 (although it doesn’t hold a candle to the giant tortoise, which can reportedly live 255 years).  The law’s origins as a measure designed to combat fraud stemming from military contracts during the Civil War couldn’t be more relevant today, as the government is paying  a record amount of money to military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Regarding unscrupulous military contractors, Abraham Lincoln opined

Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the Nation while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains of the South and their countrymen moldering the dust.

Considering what transpired during the Civil War, it’s easy to understand how Lincoln came to this conclusion. During the Civil War, military contractors sold sick and mangy mules and horses, defective rifles and ammunition, rancid rations, and other second-rate provisions to the Union Army.

Further discussion of the Act’s history may be found in United States ex rel. Williams v. NEC Corp., 931 F.2d 1493, 1496-98 (11th Cir. 1991) and United States ex rel. S. Prawer & Co., 24 F.3d at 324-26.

Although defective helicopters may have replaced mangy mules,  the False Claims Act remains an effective tool for fighting fraud 147 years since its passage. The beauty of the FCA is its adaptability–it is now used to fight fraud in areas far beyond its original intent – such as health care fraud.

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