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How Whistleblowers Can Help Prevent Tragedies

May 18, 2023

In the comic books, superman is able to stop Braniac from controlling the world, the Avengers stopped Ultron through their unity, but in real life, the superheroes are whistleblowers who can stop bad things from occurring before they progress too far.  Whistleblowers are individuals who expose or report illegal, unethical, or fraudulent activities within their organization or workplace. They are critical in preventing disasters and holding corporations and organizations accountable by reporting things in a timely and correct manner before they proliferate and economically or physically hurt people.  Whether it’s an SEC whistleblower who is reporting a massive Ponzi Scheme so the federal government can seize assets before they’re secreted, a False Claims Act whistleblower who knows of pharmaceutical fraud and a product whose side effects can kill, or a government insider who’s aware of an illegal surveillance program that compromises the rights of it’s citizens, whistleblower can stop things or alternatively, help to hold entities accountable to install safeguards to prevent future misconduct. 

How whistleblowers prevent tragedies 

Comic book superheroes defense liberty and justice for a variety of reasons, some purer than others, and most whistleblowers under most statutes do so because they believe they are doing the right thing, but in addition to following their moral compass, there’s strong economic incentives under various statutes to blow the whistle.  Each year hundreds of millions of dollars go to whistleblowers under various qui tam statutes and other programs, such as the False Claims Act to report Medicare Fraud, Medicaid Fraud, Defense Contractor Fraud, Pharmaceutical Fraud, SEC whistleblower program to report securities violations, churning, insider trading, audit trail obfuscation, CFTC whistleblower program to report commodities violations, NHTSA whistleblower program for insiders to report things that affect our roads and safety of the highways, the AML whistleblower program to report money laundering and the IRS whistleblower program to report tax cheats to name a few. 

In this blog post, we’ll look at how early whistleblowers can potentially help prevent tragedies, the legal protections available to whistleblowers, and the role of a whistleblower attorney.

The Importance of Whistleblowing in Preventing Tragedies 

Whistleblowers help to prevent tragedies by exposing illegal or unethical behavior within organizations. They can report environmental violations, workplace safety issues, financial fraud, and other unlawful activities. Whistleblowers help to bring these issues to light the right way, which can lead to corrective action and avert tragedies.

One example of a whistleblower who helped correct quality control issues was a former quality assurance manager at the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) who discovered serious quality control problems at a GSK plant that manufactured drugs for diabetes and asthma. After reporting  her concerns to the FDA she then filed a whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act, alleging that GSK had violated federal law by submitting false claims for payment to Medicare and Medicaid for drugs that were manufactured under substandard conditions. The lawsuit ultimately led to a $750 million settlement between GSK and the federal government, and Eckard was awarded $96 million whistleblower award for her role in exposing the fraud.

The whistleblowing helped avert potential tragedies by exposing serious quality control problems that could have resulted in the production of unsafe drugs. Her actions also helped protect the integrity of the Medicare and Medicaid programs by holding GSK accountable for submitting false claims for payment. The False Claims Act is a powerful tool for whistleblowers like Eckard to report fraud and hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions.

Another example is under the NHTSA program. The National Highway Traffic Safety gave more than $24 million as a whistleblower reward to an individual who provided information provided related to Hyundai Motor America (Hyundai) and Kia Motors America (Kia) and their violations of the Safety Act. The NHTSA issued Consent Orders regarding untimely recalls of over 1.6 million vehicles equipped with Theta II engines that posed a risk.  Each vehicle with a potentially defective engine could have ended multiple lives, so speaking up probably saved many lives.  

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Tips on How Whistleblower Can Prevent Tragedies 

Document everything

It is critical to keep records of any illegal or unethical behavior you witness. This documentation can be used to back up your claims and assist the authorities in taking appropriate action. It is also critical not to obtain information in a way that could put you in jeopardy; instead, speak with a whistleblower law firm first, who can guide you through the entire process.

Seek legal guidance

Whistleblowing can have serious consequences, including employer retaliation. Seek legal counsel from a whistleblower attorney who can explain your rights and help protect you from retaliation.

Stay informed

Keep up to date on the latest whistleblowing laws and regulations. This knowledge can help you understand your legal rights and protections, as well as navigate the complex whistleblowing process.

If you see something, say something

Reporting through internal reporting mechanisms may be a one way street to termination. If you suspect there is a systemic wrongdoing whether it’s the defrauding of Medicare (link), Pharmaceutical Fraud, Money Laundering, Securities Violations, Commodities Violations, Transportation Safety Issues, or other insider issues that are illegal or unethical, know what your options are by having a free, confidential consultation with a whistleblower law firm.  

How Do you Report Fraud?

Certain government agencies have mechanism for direct reporting, however, if you use those mechanisms then you will not be eligible for a whistleblower award or other safety features.  For example, with the use of an SEC whistleblower attorney you can report securities violations anonymously, similarly with the AML whistleblower program, NHTSA whistleblower program and CFTC whistleblower program if you utilize whistleblower counsel you can potentially shield your identity from start to finish. If you’re reporting fraud against the government, you can only file the matter with a False Claims Act lawyer and you need to do it confidentially under seal.  

Whistleblower Protection Under the Law 

When whistleblowers come forward, there are legal safeguards in place to help avoid negative consequences.  

For example, The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a federal law that protects government employees who report misconduct within their organizations. Furthermore, whistleblowers who report government fraud are protected under the False Claims Act have robust anti-retaliation provisions. For SEC whistleblowers, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act protects whistleblowers who report securities law violations and almost every qui tam statute has a mechanism of protection if you’re a qualified individual under the statute and you invoke its protections properly

Many states, in addition to these laws, have their own whistleblower protection laws. Employees who report illegal or unethical behavior the right way may be given additional protection under these laws. 

The Role of a Whistleblower Attorney 

A whistleblower attorney is a legal professional who helps whistleblowers. These attorneys understand the complexities of whistleblower law and can help individuals navigate the process of whistleblowing while protecting their legal rights.

Whistleblower attorneys can help individuals understand their rights and protections under the various whistleblower laws. They can also help individuals prepare their case, gather evidence, and file a complaint with the appropriate authorities. In addition, a whistleblower attorney can help protect individuals from retaliation by their employer.  Under the False Claims Act, the use of a law firm is required; under other statutes in order to invoke the benefit of anonymity the use of an attorney is required. Further, you only have one shot to do it right, so you want to tee things up with maximum impact leaning on firms who’ve done the same type of work before to exploit their experience for the benefit of the case. 

Choosing a Whistleblower Law Firm 

When choosing a whistleblower attorney, it is important to select a law firm with experience in whistleblower cases. The law firm should have a proven track record of success in representing whistleblowers and helping them navigate the legal process.

Additionally, it is important to choose a law firm that understands the nuances of whistleblower law. Whistleblower cases can be complex and require particularized knowledge of the law to navigate effectively. The law firm should have a deep understanding of whistleblower laws and be able to provide detailed guidance to their clients.  Ideally, since most cases involve interfacing with the federal government such as the Department of Justice, having a former DOJ lawyer or FBI lawyer may prove valuable to seamlessly advance your case.  

Whistleblowers play a critical role in preventing tragedies by exposing illegal or unethical activities within organizations. However, whistleblowing can be a risky and complex process. Whistleblower protection laws exist to help protect individuals who come forward and expose wrongdoing. A whistleblower attorney can help individuals navigate the complex process of whistleblowing while protecting their legal rights. If you are considering blowing the whistle on illegal or unethical activities within your organization, it is important to obtain experienced guidance to steer you in the right direction.  Not all heroes wear capes, but with some of the best whistleblower law firms, you can maximize your powers.