What makes someone a whistleblower?
A whistleblower is an individual, typically an insider, who exposes corporate wrongdoing. The whistleblower does so even though the wrongdoing that he or she witnessed is considered acceptable behavior within the company or industry. Because the activity is considered accepted behavior, the decision to expose the wrongdoing is a difficult one. Those in the whistleblower’s company often try to convince the whistleblower that what he or she believes is unethical or illegal is, in fact, acceptable and legal. Whistleblowers seek information to validate their own questions and conclusions.
What laws protect whistleblowers?
In the United States, we have laws that protect individuals who blow the whistle on wrongful conduct. Government regulatory bodies, including the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service, rely on information from whistleblowers to enforce compliance with laws and regulations.
You can learn more about Whistleblower Protections here.
How are lawsuits brought by whistleblowers?
Where the wrongdoing involves conduct that cheats the U.S. Government or causes the wrongful expenditure of U.S Government funds, a whistleblower may be entitled to bring suit under the Federal False Claims Act. Where the conduct cheats state or city governments out of money or deprives them of the products and services that they contracted to buy, the whistleblower may have a right of action under state or municipal false claims acts. There are twenty-nine states that have enacted false claims acts and at least two municipalities, New York and Chicago, have false claims laws.
A false claims statute allows the whistleblower to bring the suit in the name of the government, even where the whistleblower is not personally injured. Where the suit is successful, the whistleblower is entitled to a bounty, which can range from between fifteen-thirty percent of what is ultimately recovered for the Government.
You can learn more about the Federal and state statutes that allow whistleblowers to bring suit against violators here.