Many Wisconsin residents may have heard last week that a whistle-blower has been awarded $104 million for reporting wrongdoings of his former employer UBS. The bank reportedly helped wealthy Americans to hide assets. This award could be largest payout ever given in a whistle-blower case.
The man was given the financial award under the federal False Claims Act, by which the IRS pays whistle-blowers who come forward with tips about certain types of fraud in which their employers may be partaking. However, while blowing the whistle on the wrongful or fraudulent acts of one’s employer might be the ethical thing to do, it does come with major risks for employees, and not always much reward.
Although False Claims Act reports are kept confidential for some time, when employers do find out that an employee exposed wrongdoing, retaliation often ensues. Although this is illegal and the employee can stand up for his or her rights with the assistance of an attorney, the immediate effects of retaliation can include termination, being passed over for promotions and working in a hostile work environment, among other things.
Additionally, False Claims Act claims take quite a bit of time to be resolved and the payouts are not as large as the one the UBS banker received. For example, in all of last year, the IRS paid a total of $8 million to 97 people.
Nonetheless, many workers here in Wisconsin and elsewhere feel called to right the wrongs of their employers and they should not be afraid to do so, though it is important to exercise caution. Experienced False Claims Act attorneys can help people file reports about fraud, as well as stand up for those who have been retaliated against for doing so.
Source: New York Times, “A Sobering Reality for Whistle-Blowers,” Paul Sullivan, Sept. 21, 2012