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Top Ten Whistleblower Awards for 2020

Posted  January 22, 2021

2020 was another strong year for whistleblowers, who once again collectively recovered billions of dollars for the government and hundreds of millions of dollars in whistleblower rewards through their filing of lawsuits under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.  Whistleblowers this past year also continued to secure financial rewards under the Dodd-Frank SEC Whistleblower and CFTC Whistleblower programs, and under the various state False Claims Act programs.

Set forth below is a listing of the Top-10 whistleblower awards of 2020.  There are two notable features of this year’s listing.

First, 6 of the top-10 awards were made under the SEC whistleblower program, including the $114 million award that topped this year’s list.  This is the first time the Top-10 whistleblower awards listing was dominated by SEC awards.  And it follows from last year’s record-breaking year for the SEC Whistleblower Program.

Second, of the 4 False Claims Act awards in the Top-10 listing, 3 of them were made to Constantine Cannon whistleblower clients.  This includes the Verizon/AT&T/Sprint whistleblower in the Number 3 spot who received a $51 million award; the South Korean oil company whistleblower in the Number 5 spot who received $37 million; and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York whistleblower in the number 10 spot who received $16.5 million.  This was all part of the record-shattering year the Constantine Cannon whistleblower practice group had for the firm’s whistleblower clients.

  1. Anonymous SEC Whistleblower – An undisclosed whistleblower who reported violations of the Securities Exchange Act under the SEC Whistleblower Reward Program received $114 million, by far the largest SEC whistleblower award to date. Other than its size, another notable feature about this ground-breaking award is that more than half of it ($62 million) originated from the government’s recovery through another undisclosed agency.  Pursuant to the SEC’s whistleblower confidentiality provisions, the SEC did not reveal the identity of the whistleblower or the subject of the SEC enforcement action.
  2. Novartis – Former Novartis sales representative Oswald Bilotta received $109.4 million from the $678 million Novartis agreed to pay to settle allegations it violated the False Claims Act and Anti-Kickback Statute by paying kickbacks to doctors to induce them to prescribe Novartis drugs.  The kickbacks allegedly took the form of exorbitant fees to doctors to speak about Novartis drugs at sham educational events that were really just social gatherings for the doctors with luxury travel, recreational activities, and fine dining, all funded by Novartis.
  3. Verizon/AT&T/Sprint – Constantine Cannon whistleblower client OnTheGo Wireless received $51 million from the $138.7 million Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, Sprint and other carriers agreed to pay to settle allegations they violated the California False Claims Act by overcharging California and Nevada government customers for wireless services. It represents the second-largest California False Claims Act settlement in the state’s history outside the healthcare industry.  According to the whistleblower and the government, the wireless carrier defendants for more than a decade knowingly ignored cost-saving requirements included in multibillion-dollar contracts offering wireless services to state and local government users in California, Nevada, and other states.
  4. Anonymous SEC Whistleblower – An undisclosed whistleblower who reported violations of the Securities Exchange Act under the SEC Whistleblower Reward Program received $50 million, which at the time was the largest award to date (only to be eclipsed by the $114 million award referenced above). In announcing the award, the SEC went out of its way to highlight the critical role whistleblowers play in the SEC enforcement regime.  According to SEC Whistleblower Chief Jane Norberg, “Whistleblowers have proven to be a critical tool in the enforcement arsenal to combat fraud and protect investors.”  Pursuant to the SEC’s whistleblower confidentiality provisions, the SEC did not reveal the identity of the whistleblower or the subject of the SEC enforcement action.
  5. South Korean Oil Companies – A Constantine Cannon whistleblower client received $37 million from the $163 million the five largest oil companies in South Korea paid for violating the False Claims Act through their participation in a decade-long bid-rigging conspiracy. The oil companies paid another $200 million in additional fines and penalties.  According to DOJ, “these are the largest [Clayton Act] Section 4A settlements in American history.”  The government also cited this case as the impetus for a new enforcement initiative, the Procurement Collusion Strike Force, an interagency partnership of federal prosecutors, the FBI, and Defense Department and Postal Service Inspectors General.
  6. Anonymous SEC Whistleblower – An undisclosed whistleblower who reported violations of the Securities Exchange Act under the SEC Whistleblower Reward Program received $28 million. In announcing the award, the SEC made it clear it hopes awards like this one encourage other whistleblowers to step up.  SEC Whistleblower Chief Jane Norberg said: “I hope our recent awards will continue to incentivize whistleblowers to come forward to report potential fraud or other wrongdoing.”  Pursuant to the SEC’s whistleblower confidentiality provisions, the SEC did not reveal the identity of the whistleblower or the subject of the SEC enforcement action.
  7. Anonymous SEC Whistleblower – An undisclosed whistleblower who reported violations of the Securities Exchange Act under the SEC Whistleblower Reward Program received $27 million. Other than the size of the award, it was notable because it involved misconduct that in part occurred overseas.  Pursuant to the SEC’s whistleblower confidentiality provisions, the SEC did not reveal the identity of the whistleblower or the subject of the SEC enforcement action.
  8. Anonymous SEC Whistleblower – An undisclosed whistleblower who reported violations of the Securities Exchange Act under the SEC Whistleblower Reward Program received $22 million.  Pursuant to the SEC’s whistleblower confidentiality provisions, the SEC did not reveal the identity of the whistleblower or the subject of the SEC enforcement action.
  9. Anonymous SEC Whistleblower – An undisclosed whistleblower who reported violations of the Securities Exchange Act under the SEC Whistleblower Reward Program received $18 million. In announcing the award, the SEC noted “the whistleblower repeatedly reported the problem internally before contacting the SEC.”  That is the case with most whistleblowers and something the SEC encourages, though depending on the organization, it unfortunately often leads to retaliation against the whistleblower for reporting the misconduct.  Pursuant to the SEC’s whistleblower confidentiality provisions, the SEC did not reveal the identity of the whistleblower or the subject of the SEC enforcement action.
  10. Visiting Nurse Service of New York – Constantine Cannon whistleblower client and former VNSNY executive Edward Lacey will receive roughly $16.5 million from the $57 million VNSNY agreed to pay to settle allegations it violated the False Claims Act by failing to provide its patients all the critical visits and services their doctors prescribed in their patient Plans of Care. It is the first reported False Claims Act settlement involving allegations of a home health agency failing to follow patient Plans of Care.  It also is one of the largest False Claims Act settlements ever against a home health care company.

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Please contact us if you would like more information on any of these awards or the whistleblower programs under which the awards were made, or if you would like to speak with one of our experienced whistleblower lawyers.  And to gage the likelihood of yourself becoming a whistleblower, please spend a minute to take our whistleblower quiz.  You might be surprised by the result.

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Annual Whistleblower Insider Top Ten Lists

Every January, Whistleblower Insider looks back at the significant government enforcement actions of the past year. Our Top Ten lists highlight the biggest recoveries and significant enforcement efforts by different government actors in cases of interest to whistleblowers.
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Tagged in: Anti-Kickback and Stark, Bribery and Bid-Rigging, CFTC Whistleblower Reward Program, FCA State, SEC Whistleblower Reward Program, Securities Fraud, Top 10, Whistleblower Case, Whistleblower Rewards,


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