How Whistleblower Laws Can Prevent Bad Stewardship of Taxpayer Dollars
August 10th, 2018 by Mike Bothwell
Put whistleblower laws to work for the common man.
Whistleblower laws make it easy for people to come forward when they know trouble is afoot. They also encourage people to bust corruption wide open by offering them protection from retaliation — and the chance to receive a small fortune.
How the False Claims Act Encourages People to Do the Right Thing
Telling the truth isn’t always easy, especially when lies seem to have good intentions behind them. Many instances of fraud look like someone has done something to help out the little guy, but the bigger picture shows a different story.
Take Medicaid insurance fraud, for example. Policies in states like Iowa are changing to drastically limit the amount of dental work state insurance will cover in a year. Why? Because so many dental offices have figured out ways to bilk the system tens of thousands of dollars per patient. They’ve performed unnecessary work, lied about services and even put people in danger to make an extra few dollars. Now, children will suffer without the dental care they need because of greed. These kinds of crimes count!
It takes a brave soul to say something, but if you face the risks you may reap the benefits. Consider the hospital employee who turned the company in for falsifying grant applications. The facility didn’t house nearly many as beds as they’d claimed. The result was a $12.9 million settlement, of which $3.3 million went to the whistleblower.
Filing Suit ‘For the People’
The False Claims Act makes it possible for individuals to sue corporations, groups, and individuals for defrauding the government. Individuals wage these “qui tam” lawsuits on behalf of the nation.
The law sweetens the deal by allowing the filer to take home a portion of the winnings. While this isn’t the only reason whistleblowers come forward, it fuels motivation in many cases.
As the law is currently written, whistleblowers can share in up to 30 percent of a settlement, based on triple the damages involved in a case. See the wrong thing at the right time, and your conscience could make you a lot of money.
Unfortunately, whistleblowing doesn’t come without risk. Laws and industry policies offer various forms of protection, but they do not apply to everyone in every situation. State laws might also limit the reach of federal practices, so it’s important to seek legal counsel before coming forward with damaging information.
Whistleblower policy often protects against the following:
- Termination and demotion
- Hostility and threats
- Severe schedule changes or expectations
Changes to the False Claims Act Through the Years
While perfectly suited to deal with the problems of the modern day, the False Claims Act arose out of the corruption of the Civil War. The greed of the day horrified leaders. Contractors promised to provide troops with quality food, clothing, and supplies only to fail to deliver. These bad business deals, fueled with government funds, sometimes left Union Army troops starving and stranded.
President Abraham Lincoln, initially signed the False Claims Act in 1863, making it clear early on that the United States would not let corruption take hold. It cleaned up the country’s track record … for a while.
Unfortunately, the country forgot those lessons as the years rolled on. During the 1940s, Congress gutted the False Claims Act, removing all incentive for people to report fraud affecting government funds. It wasn’t until the Reagan Administration that people began to take this duty seriously. Today, there are significant protections for those looking to help the little guy.
The False Claims Act is just one way to fight corruption at the government level and secure tax dollars for those with good intentions. However, the country has 22 federal laws giving protection to whistleblowers of various kinds. States have their own standards. Associations and licensing boards offer their own incentives as well.
Using Whistleblower Laws to Your Advantage
Throughout the last 100 years, whistleblowers have uncovered serious risks to government funding and to the people. Karen Silkwood gave her life to the cause when a mysterious auto accident prevented her from testifying against her employer. Critics of his decision to speak out on police corruption shot Frank Serpico. He narrowly survived. Edward Snowden is currently living abroad pending extradition to the U.S. on espionage charges for sharing classified documents with the press.
Protection laws do not offer ultimate protection or keep you safe from all legal repercussions. It’s important to discuss your situation with a legal representative before you speak out.
Contact skilled whistleblower laws attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.