A relator is someone who exposes misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal activity perpetrated against the government. The alleged dishonest or illegal activity may be classified in many ways: a violation of a law, rule, or regulation, or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health and safety violations, or corruption. False claims relators may make their allegations internally (to other people within the accused organization) or externally (to regulators, law enforcement agencies, to the media or to groups concerned with the issues).
The first False Government Claims protections were enacted in the United States in 1778. The Continental Congress declared it the duty of “all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof” to inform the Congress or proper authorities of “misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.”
Later, as the Civil War devastated the United States, Congress enacted one of the first laws that protected individuals exposing fraud against the government, the 1863 United States False Claims Act (revised in 1986), which was enacted to combat fraud by military suppliers. The act encourages individuals reporting such fraud by promising them a percentage of the money recovered or damages won by the government and protects them from wrongful dismissal.
In 1986, Congress recognized that the government, with its limited resources, could not on its own combat all of the fraud that was being perpetrated by contractors and those who receive payments from the government for services. Congress reinvigorated the False Claims Act by strengthening its qui tam section to create incentives for private citizens to help the government fight fraud and recover monies owed to the government.
Relators frequently face reprisal, sometimes at the hands of the organization or group which they have accused, sometimes from related organizations, and sometimes under law.