A whistleblower is an individual who exposes unethical or illegal behavior committed by another individual or organization. There are many federal and state laws that protect and reward whistleblowers for reporting illegal activity committed against the American public.
A whistleblower is someone who exposes unlawful behavior committed by an individual or organization.
Whistleblowers can earn financial rewards for reporting fraud in many industries, including healthcare, defense, pharmaceutical sales, manufacturing, education, construction, and finance. Most of these laws apply to individuals that report corporate fraud committed against the government and taxpayers.
Thanks to the efforts of whistleblowers and their advocates in the government, there are now many more laws on the books that protect citizens with the bravery and integrity to speak out against corporate greed across industries.
Though there are many types of whistleblowers, the most comprehensive protection and reward laws apply to employees and contractors that help the government recover taxpayer dollars.
We primarily represent individuals who have evidence of extensive fraud committed by their employer and/or coworkers, and who are willing to file a lawsuit on behalf of the federal government.
Here are five industries and situations in which someone might need to blow the whistle:
- Patient harm in the healthcare sector (kickbacks, substitution of generic drugs, “upcoding”)
- Dangerous pharmaceutical marketing practices (e.g., Purdue Pharma)
- Greed in the financial sector (as outlined by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act)
- Life-threatening defects in the auto industry (e.g., Takata)
- Environmental hazards in vulnerable communities (e.g., the Calumet lead crisis)
Since the government declines to intervene in an estimated 80% of qui tam lawsuits, it is important for whistleblowers to have a qualified legal team to guide them through collecting evidence, filing a claim, and advocating for the highest possible reward.
Keep in mind that in order to pursue a qui tam case, the government requires extensive, detailed evidence of a systemic fraud scheme. Individuals without access to such evidence, including those who have left the company and do not have remaining inside contacts, will have a difficult time convincing the government to intervene.
Under the False Claims Act, an employee engages in protected activity when he or she opposes an attempt to get a false or fraudulent claim paid for or approved by the federal government. In general, the employee has three years from the date of the retaliation occurred to take legal action.
Importantly, even if the employee did not file a whistleblower lawsuit, but only investigated the alleged fraudulent activity or filed an internal complaint with his or her employer, they may still have engaged in protected activity. A whistleblower may be entitled to receive back pay, front pay, reinstatement and damages for any pain and suffering experienced as a result of the reprisal.
In addition, protected whistleblower activity can apply to persons who are not employees (such as contractors). The courts are constantly reinterpreting protected whistleblower activity, and previous rulings may impact your situation.
If you have been fired or otherwise retaliated against for blowing the whistle on your employer, contact us today to find out how we may be able to help you.
Immunity from Prosecution
Although the person blowing the whistle may have knowledge of the fraudulent activity, he or she is not usually the person who conceived of and benefited from submitting false claims to the government. In most cases, the government does not investigate the conduct of the whistleblower.
In most cases, the government does not investigate the conduct of the whistleblower.
However, to the extent that the whistleblower was involved in planning the fraudulent activities, our attorneys may be able to negotiate immunity in exchange for the whistleblower’s full cooperation with the investigation. The government is often eager to grant whistleblower immunity in cases where the individual blowing the whistle has knowledge of a vast corporate scheme involving executive-level employees.
Anonymity for Whistleblowers
Under federal and state False Claims Acts, qui tam lawsuits are kept “under seal” while the claim is being investigated. During this period, case details may not be viewed by either the accused (e.g., your employer) or the general public. Once the case becomes unsealed, however, it becomes a public matter and people may learn the identity of a whistleblower.
Once the case becomes unsealed, people may learn the identity of a whistleblower.
In other types of whistleblower cases—such as those filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Commodities Future Trading Commission (CFTC)—whistleblowers may, with help from an attorney, submit information anonymously. But even if a whistleblower submits information anonymously, in court proceedings and other circumstances, it may be necessary to disclose documents to outside entities that reveal a whistleblower’s identity.
If you have concerns about protecting your identity in a whistleblower case, please speak with one of our attorneys to learn about anonymity provisions under specific laws.
Today, whistleblowers whose reports of fraud lead to a successful government action such as a settlement or fine are eligible for 15%-25% of the amount the government recovers. The actual percentage awarded depends on various factors, including the value of the whistleblower’s information, the nature of the fraud, and the overall amount of the fine.
Speak Up Safely
Without whistleblowers, it would be far more difficult for the government to stop fraud in its tracks. Even though many corporations still try to get away with fraud, a 2016 study by the University of Iowa showed that whistleblower lawsuits ultimately change companies’ behavior for the better. When it comes to issues like public health, environmental safety, and economic prosperity, that kind of impact is a big deal.
Contact us today to learn if you could be eligible to file a whistleblower claim.