A whistleblower is an individual who discloses original information about fraudulent or unethical activities in an effort to bring them to the light of public scrutiny.
Yes. Congress has passed protections to seal and otherwise protect whistleblower cases so the whistleblower’s identity is not immediately disclosed; sometimes never disclosed. There are also provisions in place that allow the whistleblower to sue for lost wages and other damages as a result of retaliation.
In some cases, the whistleblower may be entitled to participate in a settlement or recovery. The whistleblower can generally receive between 10 and 30 percent of the amount recovered or fined as a result of an enforcement action.
In cases where a bounty is awarded under the False Claims Act a lawsuit is filed under seal. Under the IRS, SEC, and CFTC programs, however, a complaint is filed with the agency but not in a court.
All whistleblower cases are kept under strictly enforced confidentiality during the investigation. The case and its details remain confidential for a period of time while the government investigates the case. Whistleblower laws protect employees from retaliation as well, ensuring that they cannot be lawfully fired merely for blowing the whistle. If a whistleblower’s employer does retaliate, the whistleblower can sue for damages.
First and most obviously, whistleblowers have the opportunity to perform a great act of civic responsibility by helping to right a wrong. Additionally, whistleblowers who act in the public interest by exposing fraud are entitled to anywhere between 10 and 30 percent of money that the government recovers, including fines, as part of an enforcement action. If the government declines a whistleblower’s case and the whistleblower litigates independently, which is permitted under the False Claims Act, the whistleblower may be entitled to a larger percent of the overall recovery. Some of these recoveries have numbered in the billions.
A qui tam action is a legal action which allows any person, including individual citizens, associations, and even businesses to bring a suit on behalf of the government and themselves under the False Claims Act.
The False Claims Act was passed by congress in 1863, following a string of fraudulent actions committed against the government during the Civil War. It was created to impose liability on anyone, usually federal contractors, who attempt to defraud government programs. One notable provision of the False Claims Act is the qui tam provision, which allows a person not affiliated with the government to file a suit on behalf of the government in exchange for a reward. Nearly 30 States also have their own False Claims Act laws. The False Claims Acts, state and federal, also protects whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. Sometimes the same fraudulent conduct can provide the basis for a whistleblower action under other federal programs, including the SEC, IRS, and CFTC programs.
When Hagens Berman looks at a whistleblower case, it is treated like any case the firm is litigating. Under the False Claims Act the government has the right to intervene in the case at any point in the action. If the government determines that a whistleblower’s case has sufficient merit, and that the government has enough resources to investigate and prosecute the case, then the whistleblower remains involved in the case to provide ongoing assistance. While the whistleblower retains certain rights as the case goes on, the government effectively takes the lead in the case.
If the government decides not to intervene in a case, the False Claims Act authorizes a whistleblower to bring the case to court himself. Hagens Berman works to help whistleblowers present a case to the government, but when our attorneys believe the government has failed to intervene in a good case, we prosecute the case without the government’s help.
Yes. Since the revisions to the False Claims Act in 1987, the government has recovered over $28 billion, thanks mostly to whistleblowers. In addition to the monetary recovery, every year the government, with the help of whistleblowers, is able to indict perpetrators for federal felonies as a result of wrongful and fraudulent claims. Whistleblowers are an important resource for the government as it seeks to save money and keep corporations honest.
The best way to find out if you qualify as a whistleblower is to contact an attorney and explain your situation. There are four distinct whistleblower programs covering tax fraud, fraud committed against government programs (state and federal), violations of securities laws, and violations of the Commodities Exchange Act. If you think you may have a case that falls under one or more of these programs, you are encouraged to contact an attorney to discuss your legal rights as a potential whistleblower..
Two factors distinguish us from other firms; our size and our attitude. Many times whistleblower cases are filed by very small law firms who lack the resources to continue litigation if the government refuses to act.
Hagens Berman is different. We have more than 50 attorneys working across the country in 10 different cities. Our size, experience and geographic reach allow us to fully research and develop legal claims before presenting them to the government. If the government refuses to take a case, we will have laid the legal groundwork needed to continue the case without the government’s help.
Unlike many traditional whistleblower firms, we see no problem with taking on large corporations over important issues; such litigation has been our bread and butter since the firm was established in 1993.
Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers generally cannot bring their claim to the Government without an attorney. The reason for this is that the government has limited resources. They cannot take on every case presented to them so they prefer cases that are well-researched and based on a credible legal strategy. An attorney can do that research, and if necessary, draft a lawsuit to demonstrate the merits of the case.
Yes, the firm is currently engaged in a number of whistleblower cases, most of which are under seal, and thus confidential. The total potential recovery in these cases numbers in the billions of dollars.