Misconceptions About Whistleblowers

Whistleblowers put their reputations and their careers at risk when they come forward. Despite the sacrifices that relators make when they come forward, there are certain misconceptions about whistleblowers and whistleblower motivations, that persist. Chief among them is the idea that whistleblowers come forward with intentionally frivolous claims, and that whistleblowers come forward for purely selfish reasons. However, that is not the case and often whistleblowers are not even aware of the potential for a reward when they come forward. Read on to learn the truth about whistleblower misconceptions and why they are untrue.

Frivolous Claims Filed By Disgruntled Employees

There is a myth that there are a great deal of so-called frivolous cases filed by so-called disgruntled employees and relators who wish to file these cases, with or without an attorney. It is not part of the program for anyone in this process to do this, and there is an expanding number of reasons why. The relators’ bar won a major victory under what the Escobar case, Universal Health Services vs. Escobar, which upholds an implied certification as a theory of liability under the Federal False Claims Act. It says that if someone bills the government for something, that bill implies something and often that can be the basis of a successful suit.

Preventative Measures

In the process of making that determination, the Supreme Court reviewed the False Claims Act and noted correctly that only material false claims really are actionable under the law. This is something that has been playing out in courts and has been the heart of decision-making by relator’s counsel and by the government as to what type of cases to pursue all along. Fraud, false claims, and treble damages are part of this law and materiality has always been an issue when making such allegations and attempting to obtain such damages.

These are the kind of allegations to make that this law is only to be used in serious cases when the government has lost something or has been defrauded as a result of these actions. As a result, there just are not very many frivolous allegations brought forward, and under the False Claims Act, only 700 or so cases are filed every year. That is not very many with respect to just how big the federal government really is. In addition, there are in fact reverse attorney’s fees available under the False Claims Act if one pursues the case that is filed and declined by the government, and found to be filed frivolously.

Myths About Greed

One of the most interesting myths about Qui Tam/False Claims Act cases is the idea that relators are greedy. This is particularly odd, because when the law was first enacted, the senators and congresspeople who were enacting it, essentially wanted relators to be greedy. There was a 50% relator share available for a successful case.This idea of was to provide a major incentive for people to blow the whistle and bring important information forward to the government. The congresspeople responsible for the act specifically stated in Senate testimony that they wanted relators to have an incentive to bring allegations against co-conspirators.

Ironically enough, it is often those who are attempting to defraud the government, that are greedy, not the people who are telling the truth. Yet those who would defend fraud, accuse whistleblowers of greed and begrudge the people who tell the truth a share of the proceed, proceeds which are only earned upon success. The reality is that most of the whistleblowers come forward before they even realize they have a potential to collect a claim. Often they will complain at work and suffer serious retaliation, and only then look to find out what their rights really are. These are not issues that whistleblowers can easily keep to themselves and only talk to their counsel about. This is a demanding process, and one which requires patience as no cases are resolved overnight. It can take several years to resolve False Claim Act allegations. It is not an easy process and no serious counsel tells clients to enter into it lightly.

Difficulty of Being a Whistleblower

There is little truth to the misconceptions about whistleblowers being frivolous and greedy. In fact, attorneys go to great lengths to be sure that people who come forward are doing so in order to expose corruption. It really is not easy to be a relator, perhaps this is another myth, in a False Claims Act case. Contrary to every instinct in a whistleblower’s body, that whistleblower must maintain the seal of the court and keep their allegations confidential during the government investigation. It can be a very isolating experience. When a relator makes such serious allegations which may have caused the whistleblower a job in order to expose to management, or allegations that involve public safety, and of course allegations that may involve huge amounts of money stolen from the federal government, it is difficult to remain quiet and wait for the system to work. A skilled whistleblower attorney can guide individuals through the process.