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6 Things Every Whistleblower Needs to Know Before Blowing the Whistle 

January 8, 2024

Whistleblowing has captivated the nation, if not the world, with courageous insiders coming forth and disclosing wide ranging information, some of which has purely been for the public’s interest fostering societal change and others in exchange for whistleblower awards under statutes like the SEC whistleblower statute and the False Claims Act which addresses fraud against the government like PPP loan fraud, Medicare fraud and pharmaceutical fraud. Even though you might think you have information that qualifies for blowing the whistle, you also might not, which is why its paramount to consult with an accomplished whistleblower law firm before making any decisions what to do and how to do it. Here are six things every whistleblower needs to know before blowing the whistle.

Confidentiality

Depending on what statute the whistleblower invokes and in what manner, there are various levels of potential confidentiality and anonymity, although nothing’s ever guaranteed. There are multiple acts that imbue some degree of confidentiality protections. A few include:

  • The False Claims Act allows for the plaintiff to file the qui tam matter confidentially under, keeping the information secret while the government investigates, however, the matter will eventually be unsealed by the court which is generally a few years after commencing the action. Some whistleblowers file the False Claims Act lawsuit through a corporation or a John Doe to try and add another layer of confidentiality, but if the case progresses the defendant will eventually learn the identity of the whistleblower in all likelihood. The False Claims Act has given hundreds of millions in whistleblower rewards over the last decade and requires the use of a False Claims Act law firm to file the case.
  • The SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower Rule 21F-7 enables whistleblowers to make confidential submissions of securities fraud and potentially allows the submission to stay confidential from start to finish with the use of an SEC whistleblower law firm, even from the SEC itself. The SEC is not permitted to disclose information that could reasonably be expected to reveal the identity of a whistleblower.” The SEC whistleblower program, similar to the CFTC whistleblower program and the nascent, AMLA whistleblower program all strive for complete anonymity for the individual if they use a whistleblower law firm, and the violations address things like securities fraud, cryptocurrency fraud, futures fraud, and anti-money laundering.

Protections Against Retaliation

If a whistleblower does not invoke confidentiality and/or their identity becomes known through alternate means and consequently faces retaliation, they may be entitled to certain protections provided they blow the whistle in the right way, which is why it’s critical before making a disclosure to retain a whistleblower attorney who can guide you how to protect yourself.  It’s critical to note that there’s no common law that protects whistleblowers.  An individual needs to invoke the correct statute to enjoy protections and if the disclosure doesn’t fall into the aegis of the statute, then there may be no protections which again underscores why one should seek professional advice.

Some forms of retaliation could include:

  • Firing
  • Demotion
  • Harassment
  • Other adverse action

Some whistleblower protections entail:

  • Under statutes like the False Claims Act or Sarbanes-Oxley (SEC) an individual who is retaliated against may be able to recover double pack pay, payment of reasonable legal costs, as well as other potential damages.

Timeline of Qui Tam Cases & Other Whistleblower Cases

Qui Tam suits under the False Claims Act and SEC whistleblower actions as well as other lawsuits in this stream  can often take many years because of a long list of conditions that must be met, and actions taken, both by the plaintiff, as well as the federal government, or state government and/or regulatory agencies as well as with the prosecution by the whistleblower law firm of the case in chief the individual brought.

  • There is no set length for how long a case might take.
  • If there are multiple states, or jurisdictions involved, the process will inevitably take more time to be ironed out.

There are many reasons why a case might take many years to be resolved.

  • For a False Claims Act lawsuit there is a criminal and civil component and the civil may wait until the criminal side has made a determination, then:
  • The government needs to thoroughly probe and investigate the claims you have made.

The government is constantly triaging claims and if your case just involved past harm and no actual risk of injury, cases that have ongoing fraud and actual patient harm in Medicare fraud or investor harm like a Ponzi Scheme under the SEC, will constantly go to the top of the pile and your matter will be delayed.

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How the Whistleblower Process Works

  1. First, you need to identify your specific fact and your potential legal claim to understand if it’s actionable.
  2. With most whistleblower statutes you enjoy additional layers of protection if you use a law firm and particularly you will gain from the experience and prior results if you choose the best whistleblower law firm.
  3. Since the government evaluates a significant volume of cases, you need to present the information as crisply as possible, succinctly invoked the proper statute, the facts that make it viable, and the theme to entice government action. Ultimately, it’s your testimony, so the complaint and/or the relator’s statement you will have to sign and verify all the facts are correct, and then promptly file it the right way with the right government program to get the ball rolling on your potential case.
  4. If the government does not opt to join, you will have to decide whether you want to pursue the case in court alone under the False Claims Act, and for other programs like the SEC, CFTC, IRS, there’s nothing you can do.

Potential Whistleblower Monetary Rewards

  • Whistleblowers can receive anywhere from 10%-30% of the funds recovered if they blow the whistle the right way under most incentivized statutes or programs, like the False Claims Act, SEC whistleblower program rewards and the CFTC whistleblower awards. Certain states like California and Illinois could entitle the whistleblower up to 50% of the recovery as a qui tam award.

Logistics of Legal Fees

  • Most whistleblower law firms are only paid if they win your case, meaning legal fees are not paid upfront, but rather are based on contingency. This further helps individuals to step forward and your law firm shares the risk as well as the reward.
  • With hundreds of millions of dollars in play for whistleblower rewards, there’s probably just as many trajectories your case could take, which is why these 6 things to know are just a fraction of the universe you’ll encounter. If you’re thinking about blowing the whistle the one unmistakable rule, is you should consult with an accomplished whistleblower law firm to learn your rights. Most quality qui tam firms will offer you a free, confidential consultation, but look for a firm with results, since results matter, even though they don’t guarantee future success.

Being a whistleblower is not a simple task; it is a serious industry with significant potential consequences. Dealing with retaliation and maintaining confidentiality are very important matters. It’s critical to understand qui tam case procedures and the potential financial rewards. The most important lesson learned? Seek advice from a reputable whistleblower law firm before deciding to come forward. They are the professionals who can help you navigate the complexities of the legal matters. Recall that it’s wise to have an experienced partner by your side when whistleblowing.