Hardest Aspects of Being a Whistleblower

Below, whistleblower attorney Tony Munter discusses common misconceptions regarding being a whistleblower. To learn more about whistleblowing or to discuss a case schedule a free consultation today.

I think there are many things that are hard about being a whistleblower. First of all, it feels like the whole world is against the whistleblower. Nobody likes the bearer of bad news and that can make it difficult. I think another hard thing about being a whistleblower is that usually what they are blowing the whistle about involves something important to them like their entire employment or their entire career.

Everybody they trust apparently is deceiving them or doing something wrong. That is a hard thing to live with. Then, of course, deciding what to do is hard because, at least initially, many of the options can put the whistleblower in a difficult position. Whistleblowers do get fired when they report internally quite often. And so, knowing what to do and how to deal with it is hard.

Living with the knowledge I think that an organization is doing something illegal creates a stressful and difficult thing for whistleblowers and that is why they need all the help they can get.

In it for the Money

That has not been my experience. In fact, on many occasions, I have had to tell whistleblowers that they are entitled to the money that they get. I think there is a perception being put out there by companies that have been hit with successful False Claims Act cases that whistleblowers are greedy. And nobody ever sits there and says that the company committing the fraud is greedy for some reason. I do not understand that.

But, the point to remember is that whistleblower laws are not meant to reward a whistleblower per se, they are meant to reward the act of whistleblowing. They are meant to reward the ability, the information that the government needs—that we need—to go after the real greedy parties. They are, namely, the companies who are ripping off the government or committing securities fraud or doing something illegal, whereas blowing the whistle on that kind of activity is what is being rewarded. Sometimes clients do call me and they have no idea whatsoever that they might be entitled to a reward under one of these laws.

So, no, I do not think whistleblowers are only in it for the money. I think they deserve whatever money they get and I think it is important that these laws exist to make it possible for whistleblowers to survive and make it possible for them to bring claims. If some of them come forward because of the money and they expose something serious and get a terrific result on behalf of all of the rest of us, then that is okay with me too.

Is it Smart to be a Whistleblower?

I would say that it is tricky to be a whistleblower, it is difficult to be whistleblower, and yes, one has to be smart to be able to be a whistleblower. To be a whistleblower, a person has to understand how the company in question and its relationship with the government is really supposed to work. A whistleblower has to be an expert, even its being an expert in a relatively small area.

So, whistleblowers have to be smart. But being a whistleblower is a tricky piece of business, and it is dangerous to go alone. When a person thinks they have to be whistleblower, they should find out what their rights are as soon as possible and be careful about it.

Whistleblowing is a difficult thing in terms of one’s career, and whistleblowers need to be careful. They need to call an attorney as soon as they think they might have to be a whistleblower.

Who Can be a Whistleblower

Almost anyone can be a whistleblower. The False Claims Act allows for a person to bring a claim, and person is broadly defined. Active duty military personnel cannot bring cases related to their active duty of service, but otherwise, just about anyone can. Another exception would be lawyers being whistleblowers on their clients because this almost always involves violations of privilege. In short, almost anyone can be a whistleblower, but they have to have the facts and knowledge of the wrongdoing involved.