If you have never been involved in a legal proceeding, much less a federal lawsuit involving an employer or large corporation, the notion of pursuing a whistleblower claim can seem overwhelming and possibly more trouble than it is worth. However, we encourage you to consider the following six tips as you weigh your options, and to contact Berger Montague right away to schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced whistleblower attorney.
Tip #1 – Keep your information to yourself
If you are aware of possible fraud, one of the worst things you can do is spread the news to the entire office. The False Claims Act – and other comparable legislation – actually prevents a plaintiff from successfully filing a claim if the underlying facts of the claim are (i) already public knowledge, and; (ii) the defendant can successfully claim that the plaintiff relied on the public information to form the basis of the lawsuit.
Tip #2 – Take good notes
In order to successfully advance a whistleblower lawsuit, you must have enough evidence of intentional fraud to support the claim. Vague or speculative evidence will be insufficient, and the court will likely dismiss the claim. While the courts are still somewhat split on the precise level of specificity required, nearly all jurisdictions require specific invoices or documentation showing the defendant’s intentional misconduct.
Tip #3 – Legal protections for your employment
Nearly all potential whistleblowers feel somewhat threatened by the notion of losing their job or employment status as a result of choosing to come forward. Under federal law, an employer is prohibited from taking any adverse employment-related action against you solely due to you decision to lawfully report suspected fraud. If this occurs, you can advance a separate cause of action based on wrongful retaliation – which could win you your job back with back pay.
Tip #4 – Understand the reward system
The False Claims Act is designed to incentivize integrity. This means that plaintiffs willing to come forward, who are ultimately successful in their claim, can receive a reward for their efforts totaling up to 30 percent of the settlement or judgment. False Claims Act cases can reach settlements in the hundreds of millions of dollars (with some even topping the billion-dollar mark), meaning a potentially lucrative pay day for the whistleblower.
Tip #5 – Confidentiality encapsulates the lawsuit process
From your initial meeting with a whistleblower attorney to the filing of your claim, your whistleblower lawsuit will maintain the utmost confidentiality. Under the terms of the False Claims Act, all initial pleadings must be filed under seal. This means that the pleadings are not available for public review and are not posted on any District Court website. The pleadings will eventually be unsealed, but not until the Department of Justice has an opportunity to read through your claims, peruse the evidence, and decide whether it should intervene in the claim.
Tip #6 – Contact an experienced attorney
Whistleblower litigation is a unique and nuanced area of the law. For thorough and competent representation of your claim, please contact Berger Montague right away for a confidential consultation.