Whistleblower attorneys can help protect their clients against retaliation by companies that they blow the whistle on, and help their clients recover whistleblower rewards under available incentive programs.
In the United States, there are several whistleblower incentive programs:
- The False Claims Act provides whistle blower rewards of up to 25 percent of the total funds the government recovers using the whistleblower’s information. The largest recovery in a False Claims Act action is $3 billion. Successful whistleblowers can also recover attorneys’ fees.
- The SEC whistleblower program provides whistle blower rewards of up to 30 percent of the money that the Securities & Exchange Commission recovers based on the whistleblower’s information. If they retain a whistleblower attorney to help with a retaliation claim, SEC whistleblowers are eligible to recover their attorneys’ fees.
- The IRS whistleblower program provides incentives of up to 30 percent of the money that the Internal Revenue Service recovers in unpaid taxes as a result of the whistleblower’s tip.
How to find a whistleblower attorney near me?
Many whistleblower lawyers have a national practice and file cases across the country, whether they originate in San Francisco, California; Spokane, Illinois; or any other city. Our attorneys, in particular, often fly out to meet whistleblowers before we decide whether to move forward with their claims. Our whistleblower attorneys are based in Oakland, California, but are admitted to practice in front of courts across the country.
Whistleblowers who are set on finding an attorney near them have a few resources available. They can search the Taxpayers Against Fraud website for an attorney in their area who prosecutes claims for fraud against the government, under the False Claims Act.
Whistleblowers can also search the Super Lawyers website for attorneys close to them. The Super Lawyers website has named Eric Gibbs, the senior attorney in our practice, to its list of Top 100 Lawyers in Northern California. And Mr. Gibbs has been selected for the past 7 years running to U.S. News’ list of Best Lawyers. Whistleblowers who decide to sign with us are in good hands.
How much are whistleblower attorney fees?
Many whistleblower laws provide for attorney fees if the whistleblower litigates the case and wins. The False Claims Act, for example, provides successful litigants with an award of “reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs,” in addition to the judgment.
But what if the case settles rather than being litigated, or your whistleblower program doesn’t provide for an award of attorneys’ fees?
Generally, whistleblower lawyers take cases on contingency, which means that the attorneys will advance their time and any costs associated with developing the whistleblower’s claims. Contingency fee arrangements generally say that if the whistleblower does not receive an award, he or she pays nothing; and if there is an award, the whistleblower must pay a percentage as attorneys’ fees. The percentage often varies depending on the situation, but is typically 35 to 40 percent of the total whistleblower award.
In 2018, Congress passed a law to ensure that attorneys’ fees deducted from a whistleblower’s reward are deducted from the taxes the whistleblower will owe on the award. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 declared whistleblower awards to be an “above-the-line deduction.” And as the American Bar Association explains:
An above-the-line deduction means you pay no tax on the attorney’s fees.
What does a whistleblower attorney do?
A whistleblower lawyer can assist their client by doing 5 main things:
(1) The attorney works up the whistleblower’s claim
The whistleblower’s lawyer will tell the whistleblower what information they need to gather. This may include documents, research, or further areas of inquiry. If there are aspects of the law that the whistleblower does not fully understand, such as Medicare regulations, the attorney will research the relevant rules and regulations to see if the company has violated them. The attorney can also help the whistleblower estimate the size of the government’s potential recovery and hence the likely size of the whistleblower’s reward — if they receive one.
It’s very important that a whistleblower’s claim is worked up and figured out as much as possible before filing. An inadequately prepared whistleblower submission may be ignored by the government if it is missing key details.
(2) The attorney files a whistleblower complaint or submits the whistleblower’s tip
The procedures for submitting the whistleblower’s information to the government differ based on the type of whistleblower. If the whistleblower alleges fraud against a government program, their attorney will likely file a False Claims Act complaint under seal in federal court. If it is an SEC or tax matter, the whistleblower attorney can help the whistleblower submit the information to the SEC or IRS using the appropriate forms.
(3) The attorney will try to convince the government to get involved
Often, the whistleblower’s (or their attorney’s) interaction with the government does not end when they submit the whistleblower’s information. If the government is interested in the whistleblower’s tip, it may reach out and ask for additional information, or for an interview with the whistleblower. A lawyer can be by the whistleblower’s side during any interview with the government, and will typically advocate to the government that they get further involved. In some contexts, such as under the False Claims Act, the government has certain deadlines by which it must decide whether it wants to get involved in the case (although extensions can be granted).
(4) The attorney can fight for the maximum whistleblower reward
Although the bulk of a whistleblower’s interactions with the government will likely be cooperative — you are generally on the same team as the government — once the government has secured a recovery, the tenor of the relationship can switch to adversarial. Sometimes, the government will oppose an award to the whistleblower, or argue that the whistleblower should receive only the minimum reward. A skilled whistleblower attorney can make the case to a judge or other decisionmaker that the whistleblower’s information and cooperation were essential in alerting the government to the problem and in prosecuting the whistleblower’s claims. If the attorney makes a good showing that the whistleblower’s assistance was critical, then the ultimate award to the whistle blower is likely to be much higher.
(5) The whistle blower attorney can help protect their client’s from retaliation
Whistleblower’s are typically company insiders and many still work at the company on which they are blowing the whistle. A good whistleblower attorney knows the possible options for keeping the whistleblower’s identity a secret when they file their complaint (although this is not always possible). And the attorney can help the whistleblower prevent retaliation, and if they are retaliated against, file a lawsuit against their employer for illegally retaliating because blowing the whistle is a protected activity.
What is the difference between a whistleblower lawyer and qui tam attorney?
“Whistleblower lawyer” is a broader category than qui tam attorney. A qui tam lawyer is generally someone who helps whistleblowers file claims against a company for defrauding the U.S. government, a state government, or a government program, such as Medicare. Some qui tam attorneys only bring suits under the federal False Claims Act.
In contrast, a whistleblower attorney is someone who represents whistle blowers of any ilk, whether they are qui tam whistleblowers, SEC whistle blowers, IRS whistle blowers, or some other type of whistleblower.
Learn More about Whistleblower Law
- Qui Tam Whistleblowers
- False Claims Act Whistleblowers
- California Whistleblowers
- California False Claims Act
- California Insurance Fraud Whistleblowers
- Healthcare Fraud Whistleblowers
- Medicare Fraud Whistleblower
- Medical Coding Fraud: Upcoding/Unbundling
- SEC Whistleblower Law
- IRS Whistleblower Law
- Government Contractor Whistleblowers
- Qui Tam Lawsuits
- Whistleblower Retaliation Law
Our Whistleblower Lawyers' Experience
A whistleblower lawsuit happens when an individual with knowledge of an organization’s activities provides information about fraud, corruption, or other illegal actions. Whistleblowers are often employees, former employees, and others who have access to company documents and internal information. Our whistleblower lawyers are experienced in a variety of actions, including cases involving healthcare fraud (typically brought by Medicaid or Medicare fraud whistleblowers or pharmaceutical whistleblowers), defense contractor fraud, as well as securities fraud and tax fraud.