So why not file a whistleblower case? There are some things that you really need to think about before you make that decision because the reality is there some real dangers to being a whistleblower.
- You, the whistleblower, have information about fraud being committed
- You bring that information to the government.
- You help the government recover money from the defendants
- You work with the government to help them recover the money
- If successful, you, the whistleblower, get a share of the recovery
Something else that that you may also know, an important piece of it, is that most whistleblower attorneys, certainly the ones with the most experience, represent their clients on a contingency fee basis, which means you the whistleblower don’t pay anything unless the case is successful and what you pay is a share of the recovery. So with that in mind, people sometimes ask, people often ask: “Well why not file a case? I’ve got good evidence of fraud. It’s not going to cost me anything to get my lawyer to represent me, and there’s a chance that, at the end of the day, I could get a big payday, I could make a lot of money. So, what’s the downside?
The answer is, the downsides can be significant. There are a number of them. The first is retaliation. Most whistleblowers, unfortunately, will get fired from their job when, if and when but usually when, their company learns that they are a whistleblower. Many people have already been fired by the time they come talk to me or to another whistleblower lawyer. They will, whistleblowers will often have a hard time once it gets known in the industry they get blackballed, they have a hard time getting another job or keeping another job if they’ve gotten one. There are statutes that provide protection for whistleblowers, that make it illegal to fire a whistleblower and provide damages if a whistleblower is fired. But as a practical matter, getting a recovery after the fact is often small compensation after you’ve lost your job and lost your career and gone through that stressful process. So there is the very real cost of retaliation.
Another big cost of filing any whistleblower case is the stress involved. These cases take a long time. Three years is quick. Five years, seven years, ten years is far more likely and during that entire process you will be asked to come in and help the government, to speak about the fraud, to think about the fraud. Sometimes even worse, there will be times where you’re not asked to talk about it. Six months could go by, a year could go by where you don’t know what is happening with your case. It is an incredibly stressful process. You will also be wondering: “What are the defendants, what about the company that committed the fraud, what are they saying about me?
Even if you had no involvement with the fraud, but especially if you had some involvement and that’s how you know about the fraud is you were doing the things that are wrong and it was only when you realized how wrong they were and blew the whistle that you stopped to think, “Holy cow, am I in trouble?” That stressful process will on for a long time. Think of, if you’ve ever been audited by the IRS, even if you didn’t do anything wrong, how much fun is that? Or another example if you’re like me if I’m driving along even if I’m driving the speed limit doing nothing wrong if there’s a police officer behind me it’s stressful. I’m nervous. it’s kind of like that for three years or five years.
The other thing is, even if you have really good evidence, there no guarantees in these cases. The False Claims Act and the other whistleblower programs are very good and valuable laws but they are also complicated. And good cases can fail for reasons that have nothing to do with how strong the evidence is, how bad the misconduct was, how much damage was done to the government. So at the outset of a case, and even a long way through the process, there is no guarantee. So you may be going through, facing that retaliation, going through all of that stress, without a recovery at the end.
And as to the recoveries, there can be a lot of money at the end of one of these cases. If you’ve read in the news, there are whistleblowers who have won rewards that are in the kind of lottery-level of money. But those are rare. Even in successful cases, the recoveries tend to be far more modest. It can still be a lot of money, it could be the kind of money that allows a whistleblower to not work or not work as hard going forward, but those of the successful ones.
I’ve got to say that, as a practical matter, my clients, even the clients who have had those kinds of successful cases, they almost always would tell you it’s not worth it for the money. Just for the money they wouldn’t have, they would not do it again. So the question is “Why would they do it?” And then, why should you do it? Really the biggest reason when I look at the clients I’ve had, successful and unsuccessful in terms of the case and recovered money, but that the reason that they give why they would do it again is really more, and forgive my grammar, it’s because they could not do it. It’s because they were in a situation where they saw fraud, they saw patients at risk, they saw the public at risk, they saw the government getting ripped off. They saw a kind of fraud that was fundamentally corrupting a program so deserving companies weren’t winning contracts, and companies that were lying were winning contracts and it just wasn’t right.
Many times by the time these whistleblowers came to me, they had already reported the fraud and been fired or were on the way to getting fired. The ones that hadn’t yet been fired, again they, when they came to me, the answer really was, when I asked why they wanted to do it, the answer was: “I have to do it. I can’t do it. I have to report this. I have to try to fix it. And even if a case won’t be successful, even if I get no money at the end, I can’t live with myself if I don’t try and fix this.”
So if you would like legal advice, if you think you have a case, or if you just want to talk about the whistleblower process, please feel free to give me a call for a free, confidential consultation.