U.S. Justice Department officials yesterday touted the nearly $5 billion in settlements and judgments the government has collected under the False Claims Act, topping last year’s then-record of $3.2 billion. Tony West, the acting associate attorney general, told reporters today that the bulk of the recoveries flowed from health care fraud initiatives. Mortgage, housing and procurement fraud also contributed to the increase in the dollars recovered. “The False Claims Act is, quite simply, the most powerful tool that we have to deter and redress fraud,” West said in prepared remarks.

The DOJ since January 2009 has recovered $13.3 billion in False Claims Act cases, the highest amount in any four-year period in the department’s history, West said. West and Stuart Delery, the acting head of the Civil Division, also praised the work of whistleblowers. West called whistleblowers “brave citizens who step forward to report fraud—often at great personal risk.” Last year, West said, whistleblowers filed nearly 650 actions under the False Claims Act—a record number. The department said it recovered a record $3.3 billion in whistleblower suits in 2012. DOJ, however, is not intervening in a greater number of the whistleblower suits than in previous years, Delery said.