A whistleblower is someone who reports waste, fraud, abuse, or dangers to public health and safety to someone who is in the position to rectify the wrongdoing. A whistleblower typically works inside of the organization where the wrongdoing is taking place; however, being a company “insider” is not essential. What matters is that the individual discloses information about wrongdoing that otherwise would not be known.
The False Claims Act of 1863 is one of the most important laws for whistleblowers because it allows any private citizen to sue on behalf of the government. The provisions of this act were originally passed under President Abraham Lincoln to address rampant cheating by government contractors during the Civil War. The law is also known as The Lincoln Law, and has gone on to become a powerful tool to fight corruption in government as well as private companies.
What are the types of illegal conduct whistleblowers report?
Health Care Industry Fraud – This generally involves physicians and hospitals. Doctors and hospitals bill for services they did not provide or bill for an excessive and improper amount. Medicare and Medicaid fraud are common subjects of whistleblower healthcare claims.
Military and Defense Contractor Fraud – Since defense contracts are so large, they are ripe for fraudulent activity such as overcharging or padding contracts and invoices or providing inferior products as a substitute for those promised under a contract.
Financial Fraud – This type of fraud often involves mortgages and pension funds where individuals or companies falsify various information. Securities fraud is also a common type of financial fraud and there are specific whistleblower laws that you should be aware of. For instance, the Securities and Exchange Commission has a Whistleblower Program that provides rewards to whistleblowers who report a wide variety of financial fraud.
Environmental Fraud – Whistleblowers are critical to uncovering environmental misconduct, which is often difficult for the government to detect. Generally, a whistleblower reports conduct that violates environmental regulations, and results in penalties under federal laws, including the False Claims Act of 1863. These sorts of claims can include improper wasting or destroying of dangerous materials and chemicals.