Who Qualifies as a Whistleblower?
Depending on the type of fraud being reported, a whistleblower can be a public or private employee, a contractor or subcontractor, or a non-employee who can document fraud against the state or local government. Generally, a whistleblower will have access to emails and other internal documents that can be cited as proof of the fraud being reported. Individuals who have acted as whistleblowers in the past include accountants, bookkeepers, tax consultants, executives, managers, financial administrative assistants, sales consultants or representatives, and advertising executives.
Under most whistleblower statutes, individuals who report fraud can earn substantial financial rewards if their information leads to a recovery by the government. In the case of federal False Claims whistleblowers, as well as securities fraud (SEC and CFTC) and IRS whsitleblowers, rewards can be as high as 40% of recoveries. Recoveries under state False Claims laws vary from state to state. However, in order to be eligible for these rewards, whistleblowers must meet some very specific criteria. All whistleblower laws are exceedingly complex, and it can be difficult to ascertain whether or not you would qualify for a whistleblower reward. The whistleblower protection attorneys at Gilman Law LLP can help you determine whether you might be eligible for a whistleblower reward, and whether or not it would be in your best interest to pursue a claim under the federal False Claims or other whistleblower statute.
False Claims Act Whistleblower
According to TAF, in order to qualify as a whistleblower under the False Claims Act, certain conditions must be met, including:
- The whistleblower should have actual knowledge of the fraud, not just a suspicion.
- The whistleblower should be able to provide hard evidence of the fraud, such as emails and other documentation.
- The evidence of the fraud has to be specific, identifying the “who, what, when and where” of the fraud.
- The information provided by the whistleblower must be original, and cannot come from a publicly disclosed source such as a newspaper, TV, magazine, radio, court record, administrative hearing, Congressional hearing, U.S. General Accounting Office report, or Freedom of Information Act request.
- Federal funds must be involved in order to file a federal False Claims Act whistleblower lawsuit. Fraudulent use of state money is required to bring state False Claims cases.
- The company or entity that submitted False Claims to the government must have done so knowingly.
To qualify for a whistleblower reward, the whistleblower lawsuit must end with recovery of damages by the government via a lawsuit filed by the whistleblower. The False Claims Act and many other whistleblower statutes have first-to-file rules, which mean that if another person has already filed a whistleblower lawsuit involving the same facts in your case, your lawsuit will be dismissed. Many state False Claims statutes also require that any damages awarded in a whistleblower lawsuit meet a certain threshold in order for the whistleblower to qualify for a reward.
Qualifying for Other Whistleblower Rewards
Eligibility for SEC or CFTC whistleblower rewards does not require the whistleblower to file a lawsuit. Rather, the securities fraud is reported directly to the SEC or CFTC, which will then determine whether or not to pursue an enforcement action. SEC and CFTC whistleblowers are eligible to receive up to 40% of any penalties collected when they exceed $1 million. To receive the reward, the whistleblower must provide specific and detailed allegations that result in an SEC or CFTC recovery.
To be eligible for an IRS whistleblower reward, underpayment by the taxpayer must exceed $200,000 and the tax debt including tax, penalties and interest must exceed $2 million. The reward may be limited to 10% if there has been a prior public disclosure of the reported facts. There are other circumstances that can limit rewards, such as if the whistleblower planned and initiated the actions that led to the underpayments of tax.
Legal Help for Whistleblowers
The whistleblower protection lawyers at Gilman Law LLP have assisted honest citizens in multiple industries uncover significant fraud at both the state and federal level. If you are thinking of becoming a whistleblower, our experienced whistleblower attorneys will make sure you receive all of the protections state and federal law affords you, and will do everything legally possible to ensure you recover the maximum whistleblower reward possible. For a free and confidential evaluation of your possible whistleblower case, please fill out our online form or call Toll Free at 1-888-252-0048.
Additional Information about Whistleblower Qualifications.
A whistleblower is a person who exposes the illegal transactions that his employer is engaged in. Whistleblower laws, such as the federal False Claims Act, were developed to encourage people with knowledge of fraud to come forward. Whistleblower laws contain anti-retaliation provisions to prevent companies from harassing or retaliating against an employee who blows the whistle on fraud.
To qualify under various whistleblower protection programs, most statutes require the following:
- the whistleblower should be a worker (this can be an current or former employee, agency employee, or contractor) working under the supervision of a company;
- the whistleblower believes that the company has engaged, is engaging, and will engage, in an illegal practice;
- the whistleblower has made a “qualifying disclosure” that should reveal the information that will incriminate the company engaged in the wrongdoing; and
- the whistleblower has made a “protected disclosure” with the right agency or personnel in a proper manner.
If all these requirements are met, then an individual will be considered a whistleblower and will basically be protected from the employer’s possible retaliation.
To qualify for a whistleblower reward, the whistleblower lawsuit must end with recovery of damages by the government. The False Claims Act and many other whistleblower statutes have first-to-file rules, which mean that if another person has already filed a qui tam lawsuit involving the same facts in your case, your lawsuit will be dismissed. Many statutes also require that any damages awarded in a whistleblower lawsuit meet a certain threshold in order for the whistleblower to qualify for a reward.
The False Claims Act and other whistleblower statutes require that a whistleblower be represented by a whistleblower attorney, and that the whistleblower lawsuit be filed under seal. A whistleblower lawsuit must be supported by a comprehensive disclosure memorandum served only on the government, detailing substantially all the evidence in the whistleblower’s possession. A whistleblower lawsuit must remain on a secret court docket and cannot be disclosed to anyone except the government and your attorney.