Government whistleblowers shunned
In this day and age, government employees are (and should be) increasingly hesitant to report abuses on the part of their government agency employers and superiors. In light of the growing number of highly publicized government whistleblower prosecutions, no one can blame them for their reluctance. A new documentary, “War on Whistleblowers: Free Press and the National Security State,” explores the recent tribulations of four government employees who reported wasteful or illegal activities on the part of the government. The four were each terminated, prosecuted, and/or rejected in their respective fields because of their whistleblowing activities.
Thomas Drake is one of those whistleblowers who worked at the National Security Agency, and unsuccessfully tried to report abusive government practices through official channels before finally going to the press. The government then prosecuted Drake as a spy under the Espionage Act. Though he was not convicted of any espionage charges, his life and career were essentially ruined. The former senior executive now works in an Apple retail store, all because he had the nerve to step forward and report improper behavior. It comes as no surprise that government employees are recently very hesitant to report anything or speak to the press.
Whistleblowers at private employers rewarded
On the other hand, employees at private companies who filed claims under the False Claims Act’s whistleblowing Qui Tam provision received monetary rewards for their reports of violations. Qui Tam law allows a private citizen who assists in a government prosecution against a company to receive part of the monetary penalties imposed on the company. These private whistleblowers can sometimes receive significant portions of settlements, especially for reporting serious and/or widespread violations on the part of giant corporations.
In 2012 alone, the top settlements as a result of whistleblowers include:
-GlaxoSmithKline – $3 billion
-Abbott Laboratories – $1.5 billion
-Bank of America – $1 billion
-Merck – $950 million
-Pfizer – $491 million
-Senior Care Action Network – $323 million
-Actavis – $202 million
-Deutsche Bank – $202 million
-Oracle – $199 million
-McKesson – $190 million
Though these whistleblowing private employees likely received large chunks of those settlements, filing a Qui Tam suit is not all positive. The legal battles prior to settlement or trial can be extensive and stressful. If the violations they reported are not proven to a certain degree, they could lose their jobs and the respect of their industry. However, some employees are willing to take those risks in order to report illegal practices and possibly receive a significant payout.
If you know of illegal or abusive practices at your work and are considering reporting these actions to the authorities, you should always have an experienced employment attorney representing you. Contact the lawyers at HKM to schedule a consultation and discuss a possible case.