Five Famous Whistleblowers & Some You Haven’t Heard Of

May 15, 2023

Nowadays, the term whistleblower is used generically to depict an individual who publicly discloses private information, regardless of whether the entity was engaged in wrongdoing or not. For example, the leaking of classified information is not what some would consider a noble cause, but perhaps others think it is. This blog discusses some famous whistleblower cases but does not necessarily condone all of their actions. Some whistleblower law firms will broadly construe anyone disclosing confidential information as a whistleblower.

One must be cautious to see if they fit within the protections of a particular statute before they can be considered to have whistleblower protections or else, they may find themselves as the subject of a criminal indictment and be considered a national security threat. Properly invoked whistleblower statutes may entitle the individual to significant sums of money, particularly if they blow the whistle on systemic fraud against the federal government using the False Claims Act or a pervasive securities violation and filing an SEC whistleblower case.

Several whistleblower examples, such as Edward Snowden and Daniel Ellsberg, have sparked debates on government transparency and individual privacy rights.

5 famous whistleblower stories

Some of the most famous whistleblowers are individuals who are considered highly political and have a charge to their name and conduct. Each years hundreds of millions of dollars go to whistleblower who root out systemic corruption under the False Claims Act, SEC whistleblower program, CFTC whistleblower program, AML whistleblower program., NHTSA whistleblower program, and IRS whistleblower program to name a few, but despite being able to name the program, you can’t name the individuals, because under many of those programs with a whistleblower attorney you can and people do stay anonymous from start to finish while potentially collective large bounties for blowing the whistle the right way.

Whistleblowers are individuals who expose wrongdoing or illegal activity within an organization or government agency. These brave individuals often put their careers, and sometimes even their lives, on the line to expose corruption and help bring about change. In many cases, they work with whistleblower lawyers and receive whistleblower rewards for their efforts. In this blog post, we will take a look at the list of some famous whistleblower cases in history and explore the legal and financial implications of their actions.

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Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden is perhaps one of the most famous whistleblowers cases in recent history. In 2013, Snowden, was working as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), and he leaked classified documents that revealed information about the pervasive extent of the US government’s surveillance program. Snowden’s actions polarized opinions and sparked a global debate about privacy and government surveillance and earned him both praise and criticism.
He fled to Hong Kong and then to Russia to avoid prosecution in the US, where he faced charges under the Espionage Act. He has since become a vocal advocate for privacy and civil liberties, and has called for reform of government surveillance programs.

In terms of legal implications, Snowden failed to ground his conduct in a cognizable statute to protect his actions, and thus instead of benefiting from his disclosure, he is a criminal target. However, his disclosures also prompted a public debate about the scope and legality of government surveillance, and led to some reforms in the US government’s surveillance practices. Snowden’s case is also a good example of the challenges that whistleblowers can face when they expose wrongdoing, including the risk of prosecution and the need to consult with a whistleblower law firm before self-determination that the subject matter that you wish to blow the whistle on is subject to protection and not prosecution.

Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg is another whistleblower in the list of most famous whistleblowers who leaked classified documents to the press. In 1971, Ellsberg, who had worked as a military analyst for the US government, leaked the Pentagon Papers, a classified report on US involvement in the Vietnam War, to the New York Times and other newspapers.

Ellsberg’s actions were illegal, and he faced charges under the Espionage Act. However, the case against him was ultimately dismissed due to government misconduct in the investigation. Ellsberg’s case is an important example of the role that the media can play in bringing whistleblower disclosures to the public.

Bradley Birkenfeld

Birkenfeld was a banker who worked for UBS, a Swiss bank. In 2007, he came forward to the US government with information about UBS’s practices of helping US citizens hide assets in Swiss bank accounts to evade taxes. Birkenfeld’s disclosures led to a $780 million settlement between UBS and the US government, and Birkenfeld himself received a whistleblower award of $104 million, which at the time was the largest whistleblower award ever under the IRS whistleblower program. His information upended a well utilized technique to evade US taxes, and although he obtained a large award, he was criminally convicted for a fraud conspiracy, but despite the conviction still prospered with the IRS whistleblower award. His case is also an example of why you should go to a firm that focuses on protecting whistleblowers. The initial firm that handled the case allegedly disclosed information without filing the IRS whistleblower part which may have led to the criminal charges against him.

Cheryl Eckard

Eckard was a quality control manager for pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). She discovered serious manufacturing problems at one of the company’s facilities. Specifically, she found that GSK was manufacturing drugs that were contaminated, mislabeled, and not manufactured according to FDA regulations, commonly known as CGMP problems. CGMP stands for Current Good Manufacturing Practice, which refers to a set of regulations established by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure the quality, safety, and efficacy of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and other products that are subject to FDA regulation.

When Eckard raised concerns about the manufacturing problems, GSK allegedly ignored her warnings and fired her. Eckard then brought a lawsuit under the False Claims Act, alleging that GSK had submitted false claims to Medicare and Medicaid by marketing drugs for unapproved uses, and by manufacturing drugs that did not meet FDA regulations.

In 2012, GSK agreed to pay $3 billion to settle the lawsuit, which at the time was the largest healthcare fraud settlement in US history. Eckard received a whistleblower award of $96 million, which was one of the largest whistleblower awards ever under the False Claims Act. The case is a significant example of how whistleblowers can help expose fraud and illegal activity in the pharmaceutical industry, and the importance of the False Claims Act in combating off-label promotion and other forms of fraud in the healthcare industry.


One of the most recent famous whistleblowers An individual who filed an anonymous SEC whistleblower tip through the use of an SEC whistleblower law firm was a financial executive at Monsanto, a large agricultural biotech company, when he discovered that the company was misleading investors about the safety of its flagship product, Roundup. The individual alleged that Monsanto was aware of scientific studies showing that Roundup was potentially carcinogenic, but chose to downplay these risks and continued to market the product as safe.

In 2019, the SEC announced a $75 million settlement with Monsanto over the company’s failure to properly disclose Roundup-related risks to investors and the individual received a whistleblower award of $22 million for his role in exposing the misconduct.

This case is noteworthy because it was one of the first SEC whistleblower awards in the area of environmental and public health. It also highlights the important role that whistleblowers can play in exposing corporate misconduct and ensuring that companies are held accountable for their actions. The Roundup litigation then dovetailed into a mass tort with thousands of individuals filing lawsuits for their exposure to the product and its link to NHL.

Whistleblower Lawyers

Whistleblower lawyers are legal professionals who are experienced (focus their practice) in representing whistleblowers in legal proceedings. These lawyers help whistleblowers navigate the complex legal and regulatory landscape surrounding whistleblowing, and can provide advice and support throughout the process.
Whistleblower lawyers can also help whistleblowers navigate the various whistleblower reward programs that exist in many countries. For example, in the US, the False Claims Act provides financial incentives for whistleblowers who report fraud against the government. Under this law, whistleblowers can receive up to 30% of the amount recovered in a successful case.

Whistleblower Rewards

Whistleblower rewards are financial incentives provided to individuals who report wrongdoing or illegal activity within an organization or government agency. These rewards can take many forms, including cash payments, protection from retaliation, and legal assistance.

In some cases, whistleblower rewards are provided under specific laws or regulations. For example, the False Claims Act in the US provides financial incentives for whistleblowers who report fraud against the government. Similarly, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act provides financial incentives for whistleblowers who report securities fraud or other violations of securities laws.

Whistleblowers play an important role in exposing corruption and illegal activity within organizations and government agencies. However, their actions can also have significant legal and financial implications. Whistleblower lawyers can provide support and guidance throughout the whistleblowing process, and whistleblower rewards can provide financial incentives for individuals to come forward with information.

There are many other heroes who fought for justice in addition to the list of most famous whistleblowers covered in this blog. The False Claims Act is a specific example of a law that provides financial incentives for whistleblowers, and is frequently used to combat fraud against the government. By understanding the legal and financial implications of whistleblowing, individuals can make informed decisions about when and how to come forward with information about wrongdoing.