Whistleblowers assume risks when they choose to report fraud or wrongdoing, but an even greater jeopardy comes with blowing the whistle without knowing the basics about your rights. You wouldn’t want to bring a knife to a gunfight, and you wouldn’t want to blow the whistle without preparation.
1. Know how to choose a lawyer.
Choosing to blow the whistle may be one of the toughest decisions you’ll make, but second to that, choosing the right whistleblower law firm is paramount. It can mean the difference between your whistleblower case being ignored or dismissed – or instead making impacts that will be felt throughout the country and getting rewarded financially while protecting your career and reputation. When searching for a whistleblower lawyer to aid in your claim, seek out an experienced law firm with top-tier attorneys and strong pedigrees in litigation and whistleblower work. You want a firm with a record of success at the top of the profession. Be realistic. About 90 percent of False Claims Act cases are declined, and more than 99 percent of the cases submitted to the SEC, CFTC and IRS will be unsuccessful. You need a law firm with the reputation and resources to investigate, advocate and litigate your case and lawyers who challenge powerful corporations every day and with great success. Building a strong whistleblower case to file in court and/or present to the government requires more than someone willing to be a courier for a whistleblower and his or her information. A large firm, with the depth and resources to develop a complex fraud case in prolonged litigation and carry investigations as far as necessary can make all the difference. Only a handful of law firms in the U.S. can properly advise you about every available legal avenue for your information, whether through a whistleblower program or other form of litigation.
2. Know when to act.
Time is one of the biggest (and sometimes simplest) determining factors in a successful whistleblower case. It’s important to report fraud as soon as possible because whistleblower laws are time sensitive, and if stalled, your whistleblower claim runs the risk of failure simply based on the passage of time. Also, when evaluating a whistleblower case and planning a potential reward for the whistleblower, the amount of time between your awareness of the fraud and your reporting of the fraud does play a part in determining an award amount. Whistleblower claims are serious decisions, however, and whistleblowers need to be positive that what they’ve witnessed or have knowledge of, is indeed fraud.
3. Know how to be safe.
Despite existing protections in place for whistleblowers, it’s important to be smart about how you blow the whistle. Many companies have their own “whistleblower” protocols in place to entice employees to report wrongdoing within the company. Such reporting can have dire consequences. Before reporting internally, it is best to speak with experienced whistleblower counsel at a law firm with a depth of experience ranging from financial fraud to retaliation protection laws of the False Claims Act and the SEC and CFTC whistleblower programs. Federal whistleblower laws give whistleblowers more agency, and finding the right legal representation can help ensure you won’t face repercussions for righting wrongs.
4. Know the rewards and protections that are available.
Whistleblowers who report fraud under the various federal programs are entitled to sizable whistleblower rewards – up to 30 percent – if their reporting leads to a large recovery. Most whistleblower programs extend protections, including anonymity, to whistleblowers. Whistleblowers still face various forms of blacklisting, termination and other discrimination as a result of their activities in reporting fraud. Knowing what rights you have is critical.
5. Know what defines fraud.
This last step may sound like a no-brainer, but can be the most critical in reporting fraud. Without knowing you’ve witnessed something wrong, you could miss an opportunity to blow the whistle on corporate wrongdoing, or could be putting a career in jeopardy without a strong whistleblower case with which to go forward. With experienced attorneys who are well-versed in the several areas of financial fraud, you can research and analyze what constitutes fraudulent wrongdoing in the areas of qui tam False Claims Act fraud, securities fraud, fraud in commodity futures, options, and swap markets, and tax fraud.