In addition to treble damages, the federal False Claims Act requires defendants to pay a statutory penalty for every false claim they submit. Statutory penalties under the False Claims Act are mandatory, even for claims that are not paid, or where there is otherwise no damage to the government. See U.S. ex rel. Grubbs v. Kanneganti, 565 F.3d 180, 189 (5th Cir. 2009) (“Put plainly, the statute is remedial and exposes even unsuccessful false claims to liability. A person that presented fraudulent claims that were never paid remains liable for the Act’s civil penalty.”); United States v. Killough, 848 F.2d 1523, 1533 (11th Cir. 1988).
It is the role of the jury to determine the number of false claims that a defendant submitted, and the role of the Court to assess the per-claim amount of statutory penalties. The Court is bound, however, in doing so by the ranges established by Congress.
The per-claim statutory range was set by Congress in 1986 at $5,000 to $10,000 per claim. See 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a). This amount has increased over time, in accordance with the Federal Civil Monetary Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, Pub. L 101-410. For violations occurring between September 29, 1999 to November 2, 2015, the statutory range is $5,500 to $11,000. See 28 C.F.R. § 85.3(9). As to false claims submitted after November 2, 2015, the statutory penalty range is determined by the date of assessment--in other words, the date that the judge determines the penalties, not the date that the false claims act were submitted--in accordance with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, Public Law 114-74 (Nov. 2, 2015). For penalties assessed after December 13, 2021 the penalty range is $11,803 to $23,607. 28 C.F.R. § 85.5.
In many false claims act cases, especially those in the healthcare arena, the defendant has submitted thousands, or tens of thousands of false claims. Accordingly, the statutory penalty amount can get very big, very quick.