Whistle Blower Lawsuits
A whistleblower is a person who comes forward to allege an individual, business or organization has defrauded a state or federal government. For example, a person who is not affiliated with a governmental entity can file an action against a federal contractor, claiming fraud against the government. Whistleblowers are typically employees—or former employees—who disclose information either internally (such as to a manager) or externally (to a lawmaker, regulator, the media or a watchdog organization).
Whistleblowers may be exposing gross waste of funds, gross mismanagement, violations of laws, rules or regulations, abuse of authority or a specific, substantial danger to public safety and/or health. The whistleblower typically becomes aware of the information while on the job, and the concerns of the whistleblower must be serious enough to warrant necessary changes to protect the public interests.
Unfortunately, high-profile whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden have given the term a negative connotation, even though whistleblowers are reporting illegal or unethical behaviors. It is true that a public declaration of wrongdoing from a whistleblower could potentially damage revenues, personal reputations and share or stock prices, as well as attracting attention from industry regulators, governmental agencies and law enforcement.
The reality, however, is that most whistleblowers put their own lives and futures at risk in order to do the right thing by speaking up. Many whistleblowers attempt to raise their concerns through internal channels first, however when there is no change, they may be forced to go outside the company. In the United States, whistleblowers are afforded certain rights, including protection from retaliation.
The False Claims Act is widely regarded as the most effective tool in combating fraud against the federal government. The False Claims Act was put into place during the Civil War as a method of combating fraud perpetrated against the government by Union Army suppliers and was sometimes referred to as “Lincoln’s Law.” In 1986, the False Claims Act was substantially revamped in response to highly publicized accounts of defense contractor abuse. Financial incentives for whistleblowers were increased, and certain barriers experienced by whistleblowers were reduced.
According to the Department of Justice, between 1986 and 2018, the federal government recovered more than $59 billion as a result of cases filed under the False Claims Act, with more than half of those settlements coming from healthcare-related cases. The qui tam provisions set forth under the False Claims Act permit any person or entity to file a False Claims Act case on behalf of the federal government under the theory that the government lacks the information and resources to fully pursue all false and fraudulent actions.
What Makes a Good Whistleblower Case?
Whistleblowers whose False Claims Act lawsuits recover government funds are rewarded with money and job protection due to the professional and personal risks taken in filing such a lawsuit. Because of these risks, it is important to know whether your whistleblower case is solid. Although it is important that you speak to a knowledgeable whistleblower lawyer regarding your potential lawsuit, in general a “good” whistleblower case meets the following criteria:
- You have first-hand, personal knowledge of the wrongdoing;
- The illegal activities you are alleging are backed up with documents confirming those activities;
- The money at stake is significant, and
- Your qui tam claim falls within the statutes of limitations.
The qui tam provisions under the whistleblower system can be complex, and difficult to navigate, making it all the more important that you have an experienced attorney by your side.
Perhaps the biggest myth regarding whistleblowing is that it is illegal. This is simply not true. Disclosing evidence of wrongdoing is not a crime, rather is a legally protected right. Most whistleblowers are not forced to break the law by disclosing classified information, as only a very small percentage of whistleblowers work in the intelligence industry. More often, information regarding consumer safety threats, environment dangers, public health threats and financial fraud is disclosed.
A second myth regarding whistleblowers is that they bypass internal checks and balances in favor of running straight to the press with grievances. In fact, nearly every whistleblower raises his or her concerns internally, spending considerable amounts of time attempting to achieve a resolution. Typically, only after the whistleblower faces retaliation or is totally ignored internally does the person seek outside help.
Finally, many people believe whistleblowers are only motivated by money, when in fact the majority of whistleblowers are motivated by a strong sense of ethical, civic, professional or legal duty. The person has firsthand knowledge of misconduct which is so egregious he or she feels it must be addressed in order to protect the public, usually at great personal cost. While the False Claims Act and the Dodd-Frank Act offer whistleblowers a percentage of the portion of money recovered as an incentive to report misconduct, the chances of winning such an award are relatively small.
Considering Blowing the Whistle? Seek Legal Advice Immediately!
If you are considering blowing the whistle on misconduct you have witnessed, it is important that you understand the risks involved and have thoroughly assessed the situation. First and foremost, you must be certain that the misconduct you have witnessed falls under a violation of the law, rule or regulation, is a gross mismanagement or waste of funds, poses a significant risk to public health or safety or is an abuse of authority. If the misconduct clearly falls under one of these categories, you must then ask yourself whether you are prepared to risk retaliation by reporting the misconduct. You will then determine whether you will remain anonymous in order to collect additional evidence regarding the misconduct.
While television makes it look easy, few of us are able to remain cool at work when colleagues are talking about the particular disclosure. Further, if you initially raised internal concerns, you are likely to be a clear target as the source of the disclosure. If you are one of only a few people who would have access to the documents, then they are likely to be quickly traced back to you. Have you thought about what you will do if discovered, and do you have a backup plan to support yourself and your family in the event you are discovered? If you believe you are ready to go public, make sure you are ready to risk your career and reputation, potentially lose co-workers and/or friends, and have anything negative in your own past exposed. The best way to answer all these questions—as well as others you may not have considered—is to speak to a knowledgeable attorney regarding your whistleblower lawsuit.
If you are a whistleblower looking to expose misconduct, corruption or fraud in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Meridian, or anywhere in the State of Mississippi, the best thing you can do is to contact an experienced Mississippi whistleblower attorney who will protect your rights during this difficult time.
At Coxwell & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys believe in fighting aggressively for Mississippi whistleblowers and we protect them through every aspect of the legal process. Contact Coxwell & Associates today at (601) 265-7766 immediately to retain our services.
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