People decide to become whistleblowers for a number of reasons, but the most admirable is because a certain behavior offends their conscience. Some people simply can’t sleep at night knowing how greedy companies and individuals steal our tax dollars, put the safety of the public at risk to enrich themselves or both.
Often, these individuals are already unique – they are in an industry susceptible to corruption, see something suspicious and have the moral courage to understand that it’s wrong. They can see past their daily responsibilities and focus on something bigger. They can see the forest for the trees. And they know there’s a forest fire going on.
They understand the career risk they would be taking on by stepping forward. They understand how they could be fired. They understand that future employers may pause or entirely skip their resume. They understand that blowing the whistle is just the beginning of a process that can take years. They understand that it’s a process that may not be successful in the end. And yet they persist. They go forward anyway. They know that if they don’t step up and act, maybe no one will. Their moral compass is too strong to lay low, keep their head down and just go about their lives.
To be clear, these people are not martyrs. It’s not easy, but far from a futile attempt. There is no question that corporations have near-unlimited resources and power. They hire the brightest minds right out of school and have the country’s biggest and most sophisticated law firms on speed dial. But it is possible for one individual to stand up against a corporate behemoth and win. It may not be a fair fight, but it’s absolutely possible. And the law gives whistleblowers several weapons to balance that fight.
The first weapon in the whistleblower’s arsenal is the False Claims Act. This law was first passed after the Civil War to combat fraud against the federal government. Back then, crooked contractors defrauded the Union Army by selling it sick mules, lame horses, sawdust instead of gunpowder, and rotted ships with fresh paint. The FCA gave ordinary citizens the right to sue anyone who tries to cheat the government. If found liable, the law’s penalties are severe: steep fines and three times the amount of damages caused. The credible threat of federal government prosecution and treble damages has a way of reforming behavior.
From 1986 (when the law was strengthened) until 2018, the FCA has returned over $59 billion back to cash-starved government programs. It has improved our roads, buildings, as well as the safety of our water supply, pharmaceuticals and medical treatments. For example, in 2018 alone, the government recovered nearly $3 billion from FCA-related activities. In one matter, AmerisourceBergen Corporation and certain of its subsidiaries paid $625 million to resolve FCA claims that they sought to circumvent important safeguards intended to preserve the integrity of the nation’s drug supply and profit from repackaging certain cancer drugs.
Everyday individual whistleblowers make these FCA cases happen — not billionaires, politicians or celebrities. These cases and the people that bring them change the country. When things go well, the whistleblowers are also rewarded financially. Sometimes tremendously. In the AmerisourceBergen case, the whistleblowers received over $93 million.
If this post speaks to you, we want to represent you. We are in this business to stand next to and help the person that is brave enough or crazy enough to think they make a dent. If you are looking for a firm that views every case dispassionately and strictly in terms of dollars and cents, you should go to another firm. We’re not for you. We’re not satisfied with the level of fraud and abuse in this country. We’re not numb to watching the powerful treat the government as its piggy bank and the public as if they don’t matter. If this is why you are motivated to become a whistleblower, we might be the right firm for you. You are the person we are seeking to empower and protect.