The anonymous person who led federal investigators to a "flash crash" trader could collect millions of dollars for the information under the federal whistleblower laws. Under the program created as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform movement, informants can collect up to 30 percent of the total sanctions if the government is able to collect at least $1 million as a result of these tips. Those who have information on Wisconsin businesses that have engaged in illegal practices may also be eligible for payment under federal whistleblower laws.
Wisconsin workers may be familiar with the term "whistleblower," which refers to a person who blows the whistle on an employer who is engaged in illegal activity. One type of whistleblower action that an employee may bring against an employer is a qui tam action. Qui tam actions are lawsuits alleging that the government has suffered harm at the hands of an individual or a corporation that filed false claims. The False Claims Act, a federal law, incentivizes individuals to alert the government of such illegal conduct by offering individuals a percentage of any award that results from the lawsuit being successfully prosecuted.
The False Claims Act was originally instituted during the Civil War to protect the Union Army from malicious military contractors and has been amended many times since. Any person may file an action under the FCA, and Wisconsin residents dealing with business that involve the government or an agency that works with the government may benefit from being familiar with its basic principles.
Some investors in Wisconsin might not know that a man who used to be a manager for Moody's Investors Service filed a qui tam complaint against the company after he was fired for blowing the whistle on its practices. The filing was submitted and sealed on Feb. 24, 2012, but after the U.S. government decided not to intervene, the complaint was unsealed on May 30.
Health care employees in Wisconsin may benefit from learning more about the protections for whistle-blowers provided by the state. The protections are guaranteed under the Health Care Worker Protection statute that was introduced in 1999. People who report standard of care violations in good faith are indemnified against retaliation from their employer. Concerns regarding hospital errors and nursing home complaints have been on the rise, as the frequency of each has increased over the past few decades.
There are many people who simply want to do the right thing but are afraid to do so in regards to corporate fraud against the government. However, some legislation, including the False Claims Act, allows employees to seek justice for corporate infractions without fear of retaliation. In 2013, over $3.8 billion in funds was reclaimed under the FCA, according to the Department of Justice. Designed to provide protective measures for individuals or companies who report those who defraud governmental programs, the Act is the federal government's primary tool in combatting fraud committed against it. Wisconsin workers can initiate federal government false claims actions and receive protection from retaliation.
The False Claims Act, including its qui tam whistleblower provisions, is a federal law that was enacted by Congress during the Administration of President Abraham Lincoln to address rampant fraud on the Union Army. To protect witnesses of fraud and reward whistleblower action, Congress included qui tam provisions in the False Claims Act. Wisconsin whistleblowers' rights are protected under these laws. Recently, six whistleblowers collected a large settlement for coming forward in a Johnson & Johnson case.
Feeling powerless at work due to threatening behavior from leadership or colleagues is a lonely, vulnerable position. If an employer or colleague has asked an individual to engage in, or overlook, fraudulent or illegal activities, legal action can be taken. Individuals in Wisconsin can seek protection and receive just compensation for any injury suffered for reporting the illegal activity through a "qui tam" lawsuit.
We discuss the federal False Claims Act quite a bit in this Milwaukee Employment Law Blog. The False Claims Act allows citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of the government against individuals and organizations that are defrauding the government. The qui tam provision of the False Claims Act allows these whistle-blowers to share in any financial recovery that results from the lawsuit. The False Claims Act is a very important federal statute, and Congress has been pushing states to enact similar state false claims laws, too.
Back in February in this Milwaukee Employment Law Blog, we wrote about the U.S. Justice Department joining in the whistle-blower lawsuit against Lance Armstrong. This week, the Justice Department made it official and filed a formal complaint against the disgraced champion cyclist. The lawsuit also targets the team owners.