Handling whistleblower cases presents unique challenges due to the nature of whistleblowers and their expectations. Whistleblowers are not typical clients with typical cases. They come forward to report information they deeply care about and may have experienced retaliation as a result. Engaging an attorney who specializes in whistleblower actions is crucial. If you are considering pursuing a whistleblower case, consult a qualified whistleblower lawyer who can advocate for you. Read on to understand the expectations of a whistleblower.
Motivations of Whistleblowers
Whistleblowers are often motivated by a sense of betrayal, particularly when they discover wrongful actions within their own organization. They may have been loyal to the company or individuals involved, only to uncover misconduct. Rebuilding trust in institutions, seeking justice, and holding wrongdoers accountable are significant expectations of whistleblowers. This may lead to a challenging journey, where even trusting their own legal counsel can be difficult. It is essential to recognize and address these expectations when assisting whistleblowers.
Perceptions of Whistleblowers
Whistleblowing is often seen as a heroic act, which it rightfully should be. However, it doesn’t imply that every whistleblower is a hero on an extraordinary scale. This perspective is evident in the history of the False Claims Act, which aimed to incentivize and reward whistleblowing as an act of courage. Unfortunately, in recent years, misconceptions have emerged, diminishing the value of whistleblowing and creating unrealistic expectations that whistleblowers should be flawless individuals to receive rewards. It is important to remember that blowing the whistle requires courage, and the law intends to reward this courageous action.
The general perception of whistleblowers and their motivations poses another significant challenge. Society sometimes clings to the notion that well-established organizations always act ethically, which is not always true. Whistleblowers may face criticism, being labeled as greedy or disgruntled. Although these perceptions may not significantly impact the legal standing of a case, overcoming them is crucial to foster a culture that encourages whistleblowing.
Understanding Whistleblower Roles
One expectation of whistleblowers is that they often find themselves as the underdogs in their cases. They are individuals confronting powerful entities with significant resources. Most whistleblower reward laws allow whistleblowers to report information to the government, seeking their support in pursuing their claims. For example, the False Claims Act enables whistleblowers to file a case in court, leading to a Department of Justice investigation, while laws like the SEC whistleblower program allow the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whistleblower claims.
Validation and support from a powerful government agency can help level the playing field for whistleblowers facing formidable opponents. However, this dynamic presents additional challenges for both whistleblowers and their legal representatives.
Not every whistleblower claim neatly fits into a specific law or legal framework. Whistleblowers and their lawyers must navigate the complexity of identifying applicable laws. If government funds are involved, the False Claims Act becomes an attractive option. However, in cases without government funds, alternative laws must be explored.
Retaliation Against Whistleblowers
One major challenge whistleblowers face is the potential for retaliation from the defendants. Whistleblowers often experience retaliation even when they simply voice concerns to their superiors about illegal, wrongful, or unfair practices. The typical pattern observed by whistleblower lawyers involves complaints followed by retaliation.
Under the False Claims Act, cases are generally not anonymous, but they remain under seal for a specific period. This seal period allows whistleblowers to file a case and, hopefully, transition to new employment before retaliation occurs. If retaliation has already taken place, whistleblowers can file lawsuits under various laws, including the False Claims Act, to seek remedies such as back pay and reinstatement. While these laws do not provide a foolproof shield against retaliation, they grant whistleblowers the right to take legal action. Some laws even offer the opportunity to report anonymously, such as the SEC’s anonymous reporting procedure for whistleblowers exposing fraud.
Rights of Whistleblowers
Understanding the rights available to whistleblowers is crucial for navigating these challenges. Whistleblowers should reach out to an attorney before taking any other steps. Whistleblower laws constantly evolve, posing additional challenges. Court decisions and regulatory changes can impact the landscape of whistleblower law, and what is true today may not hold tomorrow.
Another challenge arises from the fact that while whistleblower lawyers are knowledgeable about the legal aspects of whistleblowing, they may not possess extensive expertise in the specific industry involved. Each whistleblower case differs, often spanning different industries and types of violations. Building a strong rapport between whistleblowers and their legal counsel becomes essential to effectively explain why an organization has violated the law.
Speaking With the Press
Speaking to the press as a whistleblower is a complex matter. Whistleblowers should exercise caution and ensure they fully understand their rights and case before engaging with the media. Public disclosures can potentially jeopardize a relator’s ability to collect a monetary reward or complicate the filing and pursuit of a case. Public disclosure bars enforced by the False Claims Act and the Securities and Exchange Commission can be challenging to overcome and may complicate a whistleblower’s case.
While speaking out publicly about misconduct may seem appealing, it is crucial to wait until receiving legal counsel and having a firm grasp of one’s rights and the case’s nature.
Common Myths About Whistleblowers
The most common misconception about whistleblowers is that they are primarily motivated by greed or monetary rewards. In reality, being a whistleblower is often arduous, especially when exposing wrongdoing within a large organization. While some whistleblowers receive rewards under specific laws, it remains challenging to stand up against one’s own company or organization. Whistleblowers demonstrate tremendous moral character, but they may find themselves in a lonely position. Defendants in litigation may attempt to discredit whistleblowers and challenge the laws that protect their rights.
Government Approach to Whistleblowers
The government evaluates all False Claims Act cases to determine their merit and the likelihood of successful prosecution. Various factors come into play, including the presence of evidence proving fraud and the feasibility of conducting a thorough investigation. Different types of fraud may involve different government agencies, depending on the industry and subject matter expertise required. Hence, the government may treat cases differently based on these factors.
The Value of an Attorney
An experienced attorney can help whistleblowers navigate these obstacles and provide them with the opportunity to utilize the law, report to government agencies, and exercise their rights to correct unlawful activities conducted by profit-driven organizations that disregard their responsibilities. One of the expectations of a whistleblower is the pursuit of justice. If you are considering a whistleblower case, contact a seasoned lawyer today.