What to Expect When Working With a Whistleblower Lawyer
For whistleblowers who have sensitive information about serious illegal or fraudulent conduct, such as reporting Medicare Fraud or becoming an SEC whistleblower, working with a whistleblower lawyer may seem daunting, especially if you’re not familiar with the legal process. However, with a free confidential whistleblower consultation and the right guidance from an experienced, client-oriented whistleblower law firm like Brown, LLC, whose experienced qui tam lawyers have been through the process many times and are led by a former FBI Special Agent, you can receive answers to all of your questions about what options are available to you under the law, the legal process of filing a whistleblower suit, and how to best protect yourself. Working with a whistleblower law firm throughout the process can further empower you to stand up against systemic fraud and other serious workplace misconduct and obtain the protections you deserve.
At Brown, LLC, we’re committed to helping workers and other individuals with knowledge of fraud navigate the complex landscape of whistleblower laws, and to guide you through the process of bringing a whistleblower suit or action. In this post, we’ll outline what you can expect when working with a whistleblower attorney and provide you with the resources you need to take that first step when dealing with a whistleblower lawyer.
What can a whistleblower lawyer do to protect your rights?
The first step in working with a whistleblower lawyer is to schedule a consultation, and most firms who are successful whistleblower law firms offer free, confidential consultations. This is an opportunity for you to candidly discuss your case without repercussions with a qualified whistleblower attorney, who will listen to your situation, potentially provide advice on your options, and answer certain questions you may have. During this initial consultation, the whistleblower lawyer will assess the strength of your case and help you understand what you can expect and how the process will move forward if you’re eligible to blow the whistle. It is important to note that this initial consultation is completely privileged and confidential, meaning the whistleblower law firm has a duty to safeguard the information you tell them and not to disclose the information you tell the firm without your express permission. The attorney-client privilege extends to communications seeking legal advice from potential clients, even if the client ultimately decides not to move forward with a case. However, please note that just because there is a privilege does not mean the whistleblower law firm represents you – that will only occur if both sides wish to work together, and a retainer is signed.
Once you’ve had the initial consultation, the whistleblower lawyer will let you know your legal options, including if they believe there is a viable claim for recovery under a whistleblower statute or program. If there is a case, you will be asked to preserve evidence related to your case. This may include documents, emails, recordings, images, and other evidence that can be used to support your claim. You should not gather evidence that you don’t ordinarily have access to and it is best to retain a whistleblower firm before deciding what documents and evidence you need to support your case. Your qui tam attorney will help you understand what evidence is relevant and how to present it in the strongest possible light. Importantly, if you have any evidence stored on electronic devices, you must do everything you can to preserve the devices and the data stored on them, including but not limited to imaging the device, and even after the device is imaged you must make sure not to trade it in, lose it, or destroy it. The knowing failure to preserve evidence could be grounds for sanctions (for spoliation of evidence) later in the litigation and could result in your case being thrown out. If you’ve already lost or destroyed evidence, whether hardcopy or digital, you should directly inform the law firm of this during the intake or onboarding process. And even if you don’t have any evidence whatsoever other than your own testimony, don’t worry; the firm will still help you determine if there’s a route to blow the whistle.
Once you and the whistleblower law firm have decided to work together, the firm will work with you to integrate the evidence and information you have into a draft complaint to potentially submit to the correct authority as determined by your specific allegations: an SEC whistleblower complaint, an AML whistleblower complaint, a CFTC whistleblower complaint, an NHTSA whistleblower complaint, or an IRS whistleblower complaint. If your whistleblower complaint addresses Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud, defense contractor fraud, pharmaceutical fraud, or some other kind of fraud upon a federal agency, it will be filed in federal court under seal, as required under False Claims Act; or, if you allege that the wrongdoers are defrauding a state agency, the complaint may be filed under seal in state court. Respected whistleblower law firms like Brown, LLC will give you the opportunity to review your complaint before filing, to turn your key to approve its accuracy and readiness for filing.
As indicated above, the process of filing your whistleblower case is largely determined by the type of matter you’re blowing the whistle on. If your case is a qui tam False Claims Act lawsuit, our attorneys will file a lawsuit confidentially, under seal, in federal court detailing how the company or organization is defrauding the government. If your case involves securities fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, or another type of fraud handled by governmental agencies such as the IRS or SEC, your lawyer will submit your information through the appropriate agency whistleblower program. Your attorney will work with you to craft a complaint that is well-written, clear, and compelling, and that makes the strongest possible case. Your attorney will also take into consideration factors such as variations in case law and circuit law governing each jurisdiction to maximize your chances of success and recovery.
False Claims Act cases are filed under seal. This means that the documents filed in the case in a court of law are not available to the public, and only the judge and government officials are aware of the case. While federal and most state laws require an initial sixty-day seal period, many cases remain sealed for months (if not years), while the government investigates your allegations. During this time, you are not permitted to discuss the case with anyone other than your lawyers and government officials. The defendant will be completely unaware of the proceedings. During the seal period, the government’s investigators will interview witnesses, collect documents from the relevant government agencies, and, if appropriate, serve civil subpoenas on the defendant. However, once the government finishes its investigation (usually at some point well down the road), your False Claims Act case will be unsealed by the court. You should work with your firm to understand your legal and functional options at that point, as you will have time to plan for it and can benefit from working with a law firm that has represented hundreds of other people who went through the same process.
As your case progresses, you can expect your attorney to work with you every step of the way. This may include negotiating with your employer during later stages, appearing on your behalf in court, or representing you in settlement negotiations. Your attorney will be your advocate, working tirelessly to ensure that your rights are protected and that you potentially receive the compensation you deserve, although nothing is ever guaranteed.
Under the Federal False Claims Act, if and when the government intervenes (i.e., takes over the case), the whistleblower is entitled to between 15% and 25% of any settlement or judgment paid by the defendant. If the government declines intervention, and we litigate the case without the government, the whistleblower may receive 25% to 30% of the recovery in the case, if any. In addition, the recovery (if any) can sometimes be enhanced by invoking other federal and state laws, so it’s good to plot out the litigation strategy early, and to candidly disclose all the facts to your attorney.
Working with a whistleblower lawyer can be an empowering experience that helps you finally stand up against rampant fraud and/or egregious workplace misconduct and secure the protections you deserve. At Brown, LLC, we are committed to helping our clients understand what to expect when working with a whistleblower attorney, and to guiding clients through the process every step of the way. With years of experience in the whistleblower field, numerous attorney awards, and recognition from Lex Machina regarding the extent of our whistleblower practice, our qui tam team is equipped to help you maximize your chance to achieve the outcome you desire. Please reach out to our whistleblower team for a free confidential consultation.
If you have insider information about fraud upon the government, or other illegal or unethical conduct occurring at your place of employment and would like to blow the whistle to put an end to the fraud, call Brown, LLC at (877) 561-0000 today for a free, confidential consultation.