What Is a Whistleblower?
The term “whistleblower” is predominantly used in the legal sphere, but it may be recognizable to the average individual as well. Whistleblowers are individuals, generally inside an organization, who report fraud, abuse or corruption within a corporation in exchange for legal protection and a potential financial reward. Here, the qui tam attorneys at Peter Angelos, P.C. provide an overview of the history of whistleblowers, and how they impact qui tam and other corporate litigation processes.
Understanding Whistleblowers and Qui Tam Law
As stated above, a whistleblower is an individual who reports an entity committing negligence, fraud or other activities that cost governments money unnecessarily. Due to the legal and financial power of these corporations, some individuals choose not to come forward for fear of backlash or significant repercussions. However, whistleblowers play a vital role in American society, by providing information of corporate wrongdoing.
In response to these concerns, both federal and state laws have been passed to protect whistleblowers, known as qui tam, as well as the Maryland Whistleblower Law. These laws allow whistleblowers to file a complaint “under seal” with the court while informing the government, thus allowing the remainder of the investigation to remain private usually until the close to the end of the case. Additionally, Maryland law prevents whistleblowers from corporate retaliation, such as being sued, fired or demoted if a legitimate qui tam case is filed.
Whistleblower Laws Have Been Created Across Various Industries
As many whistleblowers are sometimes speaking out against large corporations, additional legal action has been taken to protect their rights. While whistleblowers are generally seen in cases involving healthcare, government procurement and financial institutions, fraudulent or dangerous behavior can occur in any industry. The Dodd-Frank Act, passed in 2010 after the United States’ financial crisis, created two qui tam whistleblower programs within the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), leading to hundreds of millions of dollars being recovered by the government with substantial awards to whistleblowers who exposed fraudulent behavior. In addition, changes to the IRS Whistleblower Law in 2006 recommends 10-30% of monies recovered be awarded to all whistleblowers in large-scale tax fraud cases, leading to awards totaling almost $1 billion to whistleblowers in the past decade. Whistleblower laws in relation to wildlife, fishing and logging have also been enacted, encouraging individuals to come forward and report corporations accused of causing harm to our environment.
Why Whistleblowers Are Vital to Protecting Citizens
While whistleblowers are often overlooked until a large corporate scandal hits media headlines, their work is vital to ensuring corporations remain transparent, and citizens remain protected. In a recent study of private corporations, professional auditors were only able to detect 19% of fraud occurrences, while whistleblowers were able to detect 43%. All too often, large corporations wield their power, perpetrating fraud, negligent and sometimes dangerous behavior, impacting citizens across the country. Whistleblowers provide insight many outside organizations are unable to detect, resulting in an efficient legal strategy against these corporations. Protection for whistleblowers is important to provide clarity and confidence that they will not be professionally or financially harmed at the hands of a perhaps large and powerful business. Whistleblowers are the key to justice for many.
Contact the Maryland Qui Tam Attorneys at Peter Angelos, P.C.
If you believe you may qualify to be a whistleblower, consulting professional counsel should be your first step. Having a team of knowledgeable and experienced attorneys by your side can help you navigate the complexities of the whistleblower process while remaining protected. False Claims Act and qui tam litigation can be time consuming and expensive, and many large corporations have extensive funding to defend a case if they are investigated. Having a legal team by your side that will work with you and government entities involved can ensure that you are able to shed light on corporate wrongdoings while continuing to remain protected. To learn more, contact the qui tam attorneys at Peter Angelos, P.C. today.