The label of “whistleblower” has popped up with increasing frequency in recent years, both in the news media and popular culture, as shown by the examples below.
Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations
What to Know About Chelsea Manning as Whistleblower Is Released From Prison
'The Informant' Sheds Light on Historic Whistleblowers
Generally speaking, of course, a whistleblower is someone who reports or exposes fraud, corruption, or other illegal or unethical conduct. The term, however, has come to bear heavy connotations and controversy, and can mean many different things depending on the setting. In the setting of the American legal system, whistleblowing and whistleblowers come into play in two general ways:
- Various laws protect whistleblowers from being retaliated against by their employers in certain circumstances; and
- Various laws provide rewards to whistleblowers for helping the government recover money when it has been defrauded.
This multi-part series will focus on these two legal aspects of whistleblowing, and will provide a general overview of the area for those who think they may have fraud to uncover. These areas of law are, of course, highly complicated, and this series is not designed to provide legal advice of any kind. If you have questions about your rights, obligations, or potential legal claims, you should contact an attorney, and do so as promptly as possible, as there may be statutes of limitation or other deadlines that could impact your ability to bring a claim.
In Part 2 of this series, we will cover some of the legal protections that apply to whistleblowers.
Justin T. Berger is a Partner at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP, where he handles high-profile cases of corporate fraud, including representing whistleblowers in qui tam actions under the federal and California False Claims Acts ...