Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rewards to offset the risks of blowing the whistle


Despite the draw of large whistleblower rewards distributed by the government recently, like the $104 million awarded to Brad Birkenfeld for exposing secrets about Swiss banking to the IRS, a recent New York Times article warns potential whistleblowers to seriously consider the burdens that accompany blowing the whistle before they proceed.

“It’s a life-changing experience,” said John R. Phillips, founder of the law firm Phillips & Cohen and the man credited with devising the amendments that strengthened the government antifraud law, the False Claims Act, in 1986. “If you look at the field of whistle-blowers, you see a high degree of bankruptcies. You may find yourself unemployable. Home foreclosures, divorce, suicide and depression all go with this territory.”

The personal and professional risks that whistleblowers take are a big reason Congress created programs that reward whistleblowers. Under the False Claims Act and the Dodd-Frank law, whistleblowers who file “qui tam” cases or file claims with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) not only receive monetary rewards if there is a recovery but also job protection.