17-8-403. False claims -- procedures -- penalties. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), a person is liable to a governmental entity for a civil penalty of not less than $5,500 and not more than $11,000 for each act specified in this section, plus three times the amount of damages that a governmental entity sustains, along with expenses, costs, and attorney fees, if the person:
(a) knowingly presents or causes to be presented a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval;
(b) knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim;
(c) conspires to commit a violation of this subsection (1);
(d) has possession, custody, or control of public property or money used or to be used by the governmental entity and knowingly delivers or causes to be delivered less than all of the property or money;
(e) is authorized to make or deliver a document certifying receipt of property used or to be used by the governmental entity and, with the intent to defraud the governmental entity or to willfully conceal the property, makes or delivers a receipt without completely knowing that the information on the receipt is true;
(f) knowingly buys or receives as a pledge of an obligation or debt public property of the governmental entity from any person who may not lawfully sell or pledge the property;
(g) knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used a false record or statement material to an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to a governmental entity or knowingly conceals or knowingly and improperly avoids or decreases an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to a governmental entity; or
(h) as a beneficiary of an inadvertent submission of a false or fraudulent claim to the governmental entity, subsequently discovers the falsity of the claim or that the claim is fraudulent and fails to disclose the false or fraudulent claim to the governmental entity within a reasonable time after discovery of the false or fraudulent claim.
(2) In a civil action brought under 17-8-405 or 17-8-406, a court shall assess a civil penalty of not less than $5,500 and not more than $11,000 for each act specified in this section, plus not less than two times and not more than three times the amount of damages that a governmental entity sustains if the court finds all of the following:
(a) The person committing the act furnished the government attorney with all information known to that person about the act within 30 days after the date on which the person first obtained the information.
(b) The person fully cooperated with any investigation of the act by the government attorney.
(c) At the time that the person furnished the government attorney with information about the act, a criminal prosecution, civil action, or administrative action had not been commenced with respect to the act and the person did not have actual knowledge of the existence of an investigation into the act.
(3) A person who violates the provisions of this section is also liable to the governmental entity for the expenses, costs, and attorney fees of the civil action brought to recover the penalty or damages.
(4) Liability under this section is joint and several for any act committed by two or more persons.
(5) This section does not apply to claims, records, or statements made in relation to claims filed with the state compensation insurance fund under Title 39, chapter 71, or to claims, records, payments, or statements made under the tax laws contained in Title 15 or 16 or made to the department of natural resources and conservation under Title 77.
(6) (a) A court shall dismiss an action or claim brought under 17-8-406, unless opposed by the governmental entity or unless the action is brought by the government attorney or the person who is the original source of the information, if substantially the same allegations or transactions alleged in the action or claim were publicly disclosed in:
(i) a criminal, civil, or administrative hearing in which the governmental entity or an agent of the governmental entity is a party;
(ii) a state legislative, state auditor, or other governmental entity report, hearing, audit, or investigation; or
(iii) the news media.
(b) The production of a record pursuant to Article II, section 9, of the Montana constitution or 2-6-1003 is not a public disclosure for purposes of this section.
(c) For purposes of this subsection (6), "original source" means an individual who:
(i) prior to a public disclosure, voluntarily disclosed to the governmental entity the information on which the allegations or transactions in a claim are based; or
(ii) has knowledge that is independent of and materially adds to the publicly disclosed allegations and transactions and voluntarily provided the information to the governmental entity before filing an action.
(7) A person may not file a complaint or civil action brought under 17-8-406 against the state or an officer or employee of the state arising from conduct by the officer or employee within the scope of the officer's or employee's duties to the state unless the officer or employee has a financial interest in the conduct upon which the complaint or civil action arises.
(8) The amount of the civil penalty set forth in subsections (1) and (2) must be adjusted for inflation in a manner consistent with the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, Public Law 101-410.
(9) If a governmental entity does not intervene, the person who initiated the action has the same right to conduct the action as the government attorney would have had if the governmental entity had intervened, including the right to inspect government records and interview officers and employees of the governmental entity.
History: En. Sec. 3, Ch. 465, L. 2005; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 64, L. 2009; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 388, L. 2013; amd. Sec. 43, Ch. 348, L. 2015.