Intervention means that the Government lawyers will enter the case and take the lead in prosecuting the action. Attorneys for the Relator will continue to prosecute the case side by side with the Government.
This happens often, particularly in the case of pharmaceutical fraud. In these cases, a single lawsuit is filed, which alleges violations of federal and state false claims acts. The Relator and her counsel then work and cooperate with DOJ and the offices of the applicable State Attorneys General.
A False Claims suit is filed “under seal” and is not served on the Defendant for at least 60 days. This period is often extended by the Government, with consent of the Relator, to allow the Government additional time to investigate the case.
The seal period could last or be extended for as long as the Government needs to investigate the case. Sometimes the seal period could last several years. The seal may be extended because the case is complicated and merits a detailed investigation. Sometimes the seal is extended because the Government is conducting a parallel criminal proceeding, which may take precedence over the “civil” action.
Only the court can lift the seal by issuing a court order. An order is secured when a motion is filed by the Government, the Relator or both parties.