Risks and Rewards
“What’s in it for me?” Part I
Successful whistleblowers are well compensated for their efforts. In some recent large the federal government has paid over $100 million in whistleblower reports. Significant rewards in the first half of 2009 included: $45 million (Quest Diagnostics $300 million recovered by government), $46 million (Cephalon $256 million recovered), $20 million (NetApp $128 million recovered), $49 million (Northrop $325 million ), and $78 – $100 million (Eli Lilly, $1.4 billion).
Federal False Claims Act:
If the whistle-blower succeeds with the case on his/her own, the amount will be between twenty five and thirty percent (25%-30%) of the total amount recovered. If the Government chooses to pursue the case itself (called “intervention”), then the reward to the whistleblower will be fifteen to twenty five percent (15% to 25%), depending upon the whistleblower’s contribution to the prosecution of the action. The whistleblower’s reasonable fees and costs may also be recovered.
Further, in some cases additional amounts may be paid to employee whistleblowers. See, Don’t Whistleblowers Risk Getting Fired?
However, if it is determined the whistleblower was involved in the wrongdoing, the court can reduce the share at its discretion depending on the circumstances. A court will deny any share of an award if a whistleblower is convicted of criminal conduct arising from the wrongdoing alleged in the lawsuit.
“What’s in it for me?” The Real Story…
A whistleblower’s courageous actions protect communities against corrupt government contractors, resulting in better health care, more funds available for loans and mortgages; more scholarship money available for students, more research dollars available for honest researchers; better roads, safer bridges, improved national and homeland security and all other benefits provided by the federal government and the state of Florida.
A single false claim lawsuit has a deterrent effect that reduces government fraud. A “deterrent effect” means that those who receive federal money are less likely to commit fraud since they know that other employees may be looking over their shoulders. Deterrents are especially effective against white collar fraud since it is not committed in the heat of passion. Rather, corrupt contractors weigh the benefits of their frauds against the risks of getting caught.
A single case has a ripple effect that spreads across many communities. Money may be made available to resurface a slippery road, to perform a life-saving operation, to feed a hungry person… and perhaps even reduce the taxes you pay that might otherwise be wasted on corrupt contractors.
How do I get rich quick?
You don’t. You can’t. These cases take time.
I read about some government fraud in the paper. What do I do?
If your knowledge of the fraud is based on a newspaper article then you are not the “original source” of the information.
If you believe you might be an original source but you are not certain, call a qualified attorney. See, What is the “First to File” Requirement?
Is there a Financial Risk?
Don’t Whistleblowers Risk Getting Fired?
Yes. However, in most cases if you are fired for exercising your rights under the state or federal laws you can sue for retaliation and request the courts to reward you your lost wages, additional penalties, legal fees and costs.
The Federal False Claims Act prohibits an employer from harassing or retaliating against an employee for attempting to uncover or report fraud on the federal government. If retaliation does occur, the employee (or former employee) may be awarded “all relief necessary to make the employee whole,” including reinstatement, back pay, two times the amount of back pay, litigation costs, and reasonable attorney fees.
The Florida False Claims Act provides similar protections. In addition, many states have wrongful discharge or other employment laws that may provide remedies for such retaliation. You may wish to speak with an attorney in your state to learn about such state laws.
Can I keep my identity a secret?
We can try, but basically, no. The Government will know your identity, and your name will likely be disclosed to the defendant at some point. During the initial confidential seal period, the defendant is not supposed to learn that you have filed the lawsuit. However, in practice, defendants sometimes figure it out during the confidential seal period. After the confidential seal period ends in nearly all cases the complaint is served on the defendant and your identity will be revealed to the defendant.
However, there are circumstances in which you may be able to retain some degree of confidentiality. If this is a concern you should contact a qualified attorney.