Looking for easy-to-read, up-to-date whistleblower information? Look no further. This website will walk you through all of the information you need about being a whistleblower.
First, the False Claims Act (“FCA”). President Abraham Lincoln enacted the FCA. Amendments to the False Claims Act in 1986 made the law more “user-friendly.” Additionally, states have enacted State-specific False Claims Acts modeled after the federal False Claims Act. Since the amendments, the Acts have become powerful fraud-fighting tools for private citizens and the government.
Most importantly, the False Claims Acts allow individuals with knowledge of fraud to bring a case on behalf of the government. Then, if the case is successful, the whistleblower receives a potion of the government’s recovery.
The portion of the reward that the whistleblower receives is significant. However, the information must be original. If the government intervenes in the case, and the information leads to a recovery, the individual will receive 15-25% of the amount recovered. The individual receives 25-30% of the recovery If the government declines.
Second, the SEC and Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Acts. Under each of these laws, the whistleblower has the potential to receive a portion of the proceeds of any recovery.
What Are Whistleblower Cases?
There are many different types of whistleblowers. For example, many people consider Edward Snowden as a whistleblower. He is! But not the type of whistleblower referred to in this website.
This website walks you through types of cases that are filed under the following acts:
- False Claims Acts (Federal and State)
- California Insurance Fraud Prevention Act (“CIFPA”)
- SEC Statute
- Motor Vehicle Safety Act (“MVSWA”)
Under the False Claims Acts and California Insurance Fraud Prevention Act, respectively, whistleblowers must have information related to (1) fraud on the government or (2) fraud on private insurance companies in California. More specifically, the information has to regard the government paying money it should not have paid. Or the information relates to the government not being paid money that it was owed. The same goes for private insurance companies located in California.
However, under the SEC Statute and the MVSWA, there does not have to be fraud on the government. Additionally, you do not file a case. Rather, you submit a tip. Specifically, under the SEC Whistleblower Act, an individual files a tip alleging securities fraud. Under the MVSWA, an individual files a tip alleging fraud in the motor vehicle manufacturing process.
Evaluate Whether to File a Whistleblower Case
After understanding what types of laws there are you can move to the next step. You can use this whistleblower guide to review the pros and cons of filing a qui tam case.
First, the pros. The pros include:
- a financial award
- feeling of “doing the right thing”
- ethical reputation in the field
Second, the cons. The cons include:
- workplace retaliation (if you are still working at the company)
- inability to gain employment (if you are fired)
- counterclaims of stolen documents
- counterclaims alleging the whistleblower breached a confidentiality agreement
After an individual understands that they (1) have a potential case and (2) would like to explore filing a case, the next logical step is locating a lawyer. When searching for a lawyer it is important to find one that specializes in this type of work. Just like you would not go to an endocrinologist for an issue with your heart, you shouldn’t bring a whistleblower case to a non-whistleblower lawyer.
Why should you find a whistleblower specialist? A specialist will navigate around the unique aspects of the laws and the various traps one could encounter if one is not experienced. For example, the unique procedural requirements that must be taken into account when filing. There are issues that arise that might bar a recovery. Some of these issues include, divorce, seal violations, bankruptcy, and signing a release of claims.
Finding a Whistleblower Lawyer
If you are convinced you need a whistleblower specialist, the next question is: how do I find an experienced lawyer? We assume you searched the Internet and are almost an expert yourself. This research has led you to a number of lawyers, but you are unsure which lawyer is the best. There are some things to look for when making the difficult choice of which whistleblower lawyer you want to contact:
- experience with whistleblower specific laws
- works on a contingent fee basis (this means the lawyer works for free and pays for all out-of-pocket expenses, they only time the lawyer makes money or gets reimbursed is if the case is successful)
- has spoken or lectured about the whistleblower laws (i.e., is good in front of a large group of people)
- is hard-working and answers your requests to speak
- has a trust relationship with government prosecutors
- educated or have the ability to think through difficult legal issues and theories
- can simply “get along” with people (this skill is often overlooked, but is necessary in order to handle cases with multiple parties involved, including, the government, agencies, defendants, defense counsel, co-counsel, and most importantly you)
Procedure for Filing a Whistleblower Case
There are a series of steps that must be taken to exercise your rights after you engage a lawyer.
First, the complaint is drafted and filed under seal. At this time, the defendant does not know about the case. The seal is in place throughout the government’s investigation.
Second, the complaint and “disclosure materials” are served on the government. The disclosure materials includes relevant information or evidence related to the fraud.
Third, the government interviews the whistleblower. After the government reviews the information, it will schedule an interview. At the interview the individual will provide all the information he/she has. The government will assess his/her credibility and seek to understand the fraud.
Filing a whistleblower case is a complicated process that your attorney can slowly walk you through.
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