Gov. Scott Walker signed the 2015-17 budget that eliminated the state's False Claims Act, which had provided incentives to whistleblowers and extra money for the state in cases of Medicaid fraud. Here he greets State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers prior to delivering his budget address at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis., Feb. 8, 2017. Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
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Civil lawsuits such as the one brought by former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager are known as “qui tam” cases. The word is taken from a Latin phrase that means, “He who brings the action for the king as well as himself.”

Such cases are filed under a state or federal False Claims Act by a whistleblower; the government then decides whether or not to intervene along with that individual, known as a relator. In a typical qui tam case, the relator may be rewarded — and funds may be recovered for the government and the whistleblower — if the case is won.

Exact percentages vary based on the role of the whistleblower and his or her attorney in exposing the fraud, but the national average for whistleblower awards in False Claims Act settlements is around 16 percent, according to Taxpayers Against Fraud.

This story was produced as part of an investigative reporting class in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication under the direction of Dee J. Hall, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s managing editor. The Center’s collaborations with journalism students are funded in part by the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment at UW-Madison. The nonprofit Center ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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