Whistleblower & Qui Tam
Exposing waste, fraud, abuse, and other prohibited practices within public and private organizations is not solely the province of professional investigators. Workers and contractors also have a role to play in bringing wrongdoing to light. Blowing the whistle on illegal or unethical conduct is a form of legally protected speech. Dozens of federal, state, and local laws encourage whistleblowers to come forward and ensure that they’re rewarded and protected.
Those who report evidence of improper activity perform an important public service.
Whistleblowers and whistleblower law are a crucial aspect of our democracy, helping to root out corruption that might otherwise remain hidden.
People on the inside often see things that remain invisible to outsiders. When they decide to say something by filing a whistleblower claim, they deserve every incentive and protection the law affords them.
Milberg’s legacy of standing up to corporate power includes representing whistleblowers. Milberg’s whistleblower attorneys have led actions, including False Claims Act and SEC whistleblower actions, that returned hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains and resulted in significant awards for our clients. Our legacy of standing up to corporate power extends to advocating for greater transparency. In addition to representing whistleblowers, we have fought back against corporate-backed laws that seek to deter them from making disclosures.
If you’re considering filing a qui tam or whistleblower lawsuit, our whistleblower lawyers can advise you of your rights and what steps to take next. Please contact us to schedule a free case review.
The United States has a strong tradition of enacting whistleblower laws. These laws ensure that whistleblower disclosures are properly assessed and investigated, and that those who make them are not subject to whistleblower retaliation. Some of them offer monetary incentives for individuals who make protected disclosures. Many government agencies and industries have their own version of a whistleblower program.
Several of the most important U.S. whistleblower statutes are:
The False Claims Act (FCA)
The FCA is the country’s oldest—and one of its strongest—whistleblower laws. Signed in 1863 by President Lincoln during the Civil War, the FCA allows, under its qui tam provision, any person or non-governmental organization to file a lawsuit on behalf of the United States government.
Importantly, the False Claims Act requires that a whistleblower attorney file a qui tam case on behalf of the relator, or whistleblower.
Qui Tam Lawsuits
When a qui tam lawsuit exposes fraud that results in a financial loss to the federal government, and the case is successfully prosecuted, a whistleblower award is paid in the amount of 15 to 30 percent of the collected proceeds. In 2020, whistleblowers filed 672 qui tam suits and the U.S. government recovered more than $2.2 billion from all FCA lawsuits.
The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA)
The WPA, enacted in 1989, protects federal employees who report fraud, waste, and abuse. Specifically, employers cannot impose adverse consequences on employees who disclose information that evidences a violation of law, mismanagement, waste of funds, abuse of authority, or substantial and specific dangers to public health or safety.
The Whistleblower Protection Act was amended in 2012 to provide stronger whistleblower protections for federal employees. In 2013, these protections were extended to employees of federal contractors.
The Lacey Act
Primarily a wildlife protection law, the Lacey Act was initially passed in 1900 to address the overhunting of game birds but now addresses a wide range of wildlife crimes.
A whistleblower reward provision was added to the Lacey Act in 1981. The provision allows several federal agencies, including the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce, to pay whistleblowers a monetary award for disclosing information about wildlife crimes that leads to a successful enforcement action. However, the Lacey Act does not specify a minimum or maximum for the award.
The Sarbanes Oxley Act
Triggered by scandals such as Enron and WorldCom, Congress passed the Sarbanes Oxley Act in 2002 to address corporate fraud. The law contains whistleblower provisions for employees of publicly traded companies who provide evidence of fraud.
Protected whistleblower conduct under the Sarbanes Oxley Act includes providing information about securities fraud, fraud against shareholders, and violations of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules and regulations. The Department of Justice has the authority to criminally prosecute employers that retaliate against Sarbanes Oxley whistleblowers.
The Dodd-Frank Act
Passed in in 2010 following the financial crisis of 2008-09, the Dodd-Frank Act aims to improve accountability and transparency on Wall Street. To that end, it created whistleblower programs in the SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Whistleblowers who provide the SEC with original information about a possible violation of federal securities laws may be entitled to an award of between 10% and 30% of the monetary sanctions collected in SEC enforcement actions. Since the whistleblower program started in 2011, the SEC has awarded more than $800 million to whistleblowers. However, to be eligible for an award, you must have a whistleblower lawyer represent you in connection with your submission.
Other Whistleblower Laws and Programs
Various government agencies oversee whistleblower programs. For example, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a whistleblower program that pays monetary rewards of up to 15 to 30 percent of the amount recovered for successful sanctions against tax fraud violators.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also has a Whistleblower Protection Program that enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes that prohibit whistleblower retaliation for reporting workplace health and safety violations.
Know Your Rights: Talk to a Whistleblower Lawyer
Whistleblower law is complex. Different laws offer varying levels of protections and awards to whistleblowers. They might seem overwhelming to somebody who is thinking about blowing the whistle.
It is absolutely essential for would-be whistleblowers to know their rights before taking action and seek legal advice from a whistleblower law firm with experience representing whistleblowers.
How Whistleblower Attorneys Can Help
A whistleblower attorney can help to persuade the government to intervene in your case, preserve your anonymity, protect you from retaliation, and recover any reward you may be owed. In some cases, the law requires whistleblower attorneys to be involved with the claims process.
If you’re thinking about blowing the whistle, an experienced whistleblower attorney should be consulted. But even if involving a lawyer is not strictly required, it may be highly beneficial.
Navigating the whistleblower legal process requires submitting information under the appropriate whistleblower program, documenting your claim, and communicating with government officials. Whistleblowers may also have to assert their rights if they are retaliated against, or if they believe the award they receive is unfair.
There are many reasons to blow the whistle and many reasons why an experienced whistleblower lawyer should be consulted early and often. Milberg’s whistleblower lawyers provide free case reviews and are here to answer your questions. Anyone considering going public to report waste, fraud, and abuse should contact us right away.
Milberg’s Whistleblower Practice
The whistleblower attorneys at Milberg have handled qui tam and SEC whistleblower cases that have brought substantial recoveries to federal and state governments, as well as significant rewards for the whistleblowers we represented. The following results highlight the strength and success of our whistleblower practice:
$85 Million Settlement – Mason v. Medline
Milberg’s whistleblower attorneys represented a healthcare worker in a False Claims Act lawsuit against Medline Industries, Inc. and its charitable arm, The Medline Foundation. The suit alleged that Medline engaged in a widespread illegal kickback scheme targeting hospitals and other healthcare providers that purchase medical products paid for by federal healthcare programs. When the DOJ chose not to intervene in the case Milberg pursued it on a non-intervened basis. We recovered $85 million on behalf of the federal government, making this one of the largest FCA settlements in which the government declined to intervene. The whistleblower was awarded 27.5% of the proceeds—close to the maximum allowed by federal whistleblower law.
$54 Million Settlement – U.S. ex rel. Miller v. CareCore National
Milberg represented a False Claims Act whistleblower against CareCore, a company that provides benefit management services to Medicare and Medicaid managed care organizations. The relator alleged that CareCore violated the FCA by approving “prior authorizations” for expensive diagnostic procedures, such as MRIs, without reviewing them for medical necessity, as the law requires. The government intervened in the case, which settled for $54 million. The relator’s share of the settlement was $10.5 million.
$25 Million Settlement – U.S. ex rel. Gonzales v. J.W. Carell Enters., Inc., et al.
Our law firm represented a whistleblower in an FCA case against one of Tennessee’s largest home healthcare providers that alleged the company made fraudulent submissions of Medicare and Medicaid claims. The government intervened in the case and it settled for $25 million. The whistleblower’s share of the settlement was $3.9 million.
Standing up For Whistleblowers’ Rights
At Milberg, we don’t just represent whistleblowers. We make sure that their rights are not undermined by powerful corporate interests that thrive in an environment of low transparency.
Whistleblower attorneys for Milberg played a pivotal role in striking down North Carolina’s “Anti-Sunshine Law” in 2020. Along with Public Justice, we represented a plaintiffs’ group that included People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Center for Food Safety, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Farm Sanctuary, Food & Water Watch, and Government Accountability Project. The group filed a lawsuit challenging the law, which was written to deter whistleblowers and undercover investigators from publicizing information about corporate misconduct.
The North Carolina law is part of an increasing number of so-called ‘ag-gag laws’ that are pushed by corporate agriculture companies in an effort to escape scrutiny over their unsafe, unethical, and often illegal practices. The laws allow corporations to threaten with liability employees who witness and report improper or criminal conduct. They threaten to silence whistleblowers in their mission to expose wrongdoing.
Before You Come Forward, Talk to Our Whistleblower Law Firm
Whistleblowers put their names, reputations, and careers on the line to expose illegal activities and corporate greed. They deserve to be taken seriously and they need protection and support. The fair and honest functioning of our public and private institutions depends on them.
Whistleblower cases are a part of Milberg’s mission to make sure that large, wealthy corporations are not above the law. We have experience representing whistleblowers both with and without government intervention. As a leading global plaintiffs’ firm, we are well-positioned to handle FCA claims in the international trade area.
Our law firm built its name and reputation by fighting for victims of some of the most infamous corporate scandals. Its litigation efforts created a new era of corporate accountability and affected meaningful changes in the way big companies do business. Milberg attorneys possess a renowned depth of legal expertise, employ the highest ethical and legal standards, and pride ourselves on providing stellar client service. Since 1965, the firm and its affiliates have recovered over $50 billion in verdicts and settlements.
To discuss your rights and options with a whistleblower attorney, please schedule your free, no-obligation case review.