Wondering what a whistleblower is? Wondering what would happen if you brought a whistleblower case? Thinking about the possible repercussions of blowing the whistle? We at the Louthian Law Firm have some answers for you, as well as links to more detailed information.
What is a whistleblower?
A whistleblower is someone with evidence of fraud or other wrongdoing who reports the misconduct. The reporting can be internally to the company only, to the company and the government, or to the government only.
Who can be a whistleblower?
If you have evidence of fraud or wrongdoing inside a company, you can be a whistleblower. Although you do not have to work for the company, usually a whistleblower is a current or former employee. You are not required to have witnessed firsthand the fraud or misconduct.
What is the False Claims Act?
The False Claims Act (FCA) is the granddaddy of our whistleblower laws, being the set of laws most often used by whistleblowers to report fraud or wrongdoing against the government. The FCA allows ordinary citizens with information to bring a whistleblower case on behalf of the government and awards them with 15 to 30 percent of any amount recovered by the government. Just a few examples of cases that could be brought under the FCA include:
- Billing the government for services or products that are not provided, or are defective or misrepresented
- Falsely certifying compliance with government laws
- Using kickbacks, bribes, or misrepresentation to secure a government contract
- Not complying with Medicare or Medicaid requirements for reimbursement.
What does it mean to bring a Qui Tam suit?
The FCA has a “qui tam” provision. “Qui tam” is a Latin phrase that roughly means “he who sues for the king as well as for himself.” In practice, this means that a qui tam suit is one in which you sue the wrongdoer on behalf of the U.S. government. Those who do so are referred to as “relators.” It is up to the government to decide whether or not they will take part in a qui tam suit.
What is the statute of limitations for whistleblowing?
It is essential that a whistleblower report fraud or wrongdoing as soon as possible. Each whistleblower law has its own statute of limitations, delineating the amount of time by which claims must be filed. If such time limits are not met, the whistleblower’s claim may no longer be legally actionable.
Under the FCA, the filing limitations for qui tam suits are as follows:
- A suit must be filed within six years from the date of the fraud
- OR three years after which the government knew (or should have known) about the fraud
- AND no later than 10 years after the fraud.
The sooner you file your claim, the better.
What if the whistleblower participated in the fraud?
Fraud participation does not automatically prevent you from filing a whistleblower claim or receiving an award, especially if you participated unknowingly, or participated under duress (that is, you were pressured to participate by a superior). A whistleblower is generally forbidden from submitting a claim only if they were the planner or initiator of the fraud and are ultimately convicted of it or a related charge.
Do whistleblowers have any legal protections?
Many sets of laws protect whistleblowers, including the False Claims Act (mentioned above) and the Dodd-Frank Act (which relates to fraud or misconduct involving securities or commodities). The IRS has its own version of the FCA to cover whistleblowing actions relating to tax fraud. A number of industry-specific whistleblower laws exist as well. Legal protections include prohibiting an employer from retaliating against an employee for whistleblowing.
Can I remain anonymous if I decide to be a whistleblower?
It is typical for a whistleblower’s identity to remain confidential. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, you can make an anonymous submission through whistleblower attorneys. However, there are risks that eventually your identity will need to be revealed.
What are the risks associated with being a whistleblower?
Unfortunately, whistleblowers risk many kinds of retaliation against them by their employers. Many have endured demotions, firings, transfers, reassignments, threats of harm, and other intimidations. However, under the various whistleblowing laws, the whistleblower can file for reinstatement (if applicable), back pay, and other damages.
The following actions taken by an employer against a whistleblowing employee are prohibited:
- Blacklisting, making you unable to secure future employment in your field
- Denying a promotion or overtime
- Denying benefits
- Issuing a policy that conflicts with whistleblower protections
- Firing, laying off, or suspension
- Reassignment to a position that adversely affects your future prospects
- Reduction of pay or hours
- Threats and intimidation.
Why do I need legal representation to be a whistleblower?
Frankly, the laws covering whistleblowing activity are extremely complex, requiring you to file a number of forms that may not be clear in what they ask you to do and supply in the way of evidence. Although you could go it alone, having a skilled and experienced whistleblower attorney will go a long way towards giving you peace of mind. Your legal team can help you make the best case possible, ensure that your legal protections are observed, and help get the government interested in taking part in your suit.
When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.
If you have insider knowledge about governmental fraud, you could be entitled to a significant cash reward in a whistleblower suit. Whether it is Medicare fraud, tax fraud, defense contractor fraud, mortgage fraud, or some other kind of fraud, an experienced whistleblower attorney like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement with the government if you have a valid case. In some instances, the government will “intervene” or take part in your lawsuit. A qualified attorney can help you structure your claims in such a way that the government will be persuaded to intervene in your case, possibly increasing the likelihood that you will recover reward money. However, even if the government doesn’t decide to intervene, it might still be advisable to pursue your case without government involvement.
For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at (803) 454-1200 or fill out the online consultation form. Louthian Law Firm. 80 years of experience—on your side.