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Second Annual Constantine Cannon Law School Essay Writing Contest on the Importance of Whistleblowers

Posted  March 3, 2021

It has been a difficult year for all of us on so many different levels.  But it also has been a time of hope and inspiration drawn from so many who have been thrust into the front lines, risking their own wellbeing for the care and safety of others.  Of course, among this cadre of courageous souls are all those who refused to stand by quietly in the face of fraud or injustice.  The whistleblowers.  Always there.  Always watching.  Ready to stand up and be heard when something rubs against their moral compass or threatens our health and safety.  Throughout our darkest days, there always have been whistleblowers ready and willing to put it all on the line.  No matter the cost or sacrifice.  This past year was no different.  

There was the original COVID whistleblower, Dr. Li Wenliang, who died after contracting the virus while treating patients in Wuhan, and who tried to warn Chinese officials of the threat, only to be shut down and silenced.  There was Rebekah Jones, the former data scientist for the Florida Department of Health who refused to manipulate COVID-19 tracking data to support a political push to reopen Florida after months of quarantine.  There was Dr. Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority who then-President Trump fired for criticizing the former president’s response to the pandemic.  And there was a slew of others, many of them like Ms. Jones and Dr. Bright, candidates for our 2020 Whistleblower of the Year

Now it is time for you to speak out.  Not necessarily as a whistleblower (though we are always available to discuss any fraud or misconduct of which you have first-hand knowledge).  Rather, we want to hear from you on what whistleblowers mean to you.  That is what our annual law school scholarship contest is about.  Hearing from our future leaders of the Bar on the importance of whistleblowers and instilling in you at this early stage in your careers the much-needed recognition of and appreciation for the critical role whistleblower play in our society.

So please read on to learn about the contest and what it takes to be one of this year’s winners.  And to get a taste of what we are looking for, check out the winning essays from last year’s winners

Who Can Enter

Participants must be accepted to, or currently enrolled in an accredited US law school.

What You Can Win

  • First Place: $2,500
  • Second Place: $1,000
  • Third Place: $750
  • Fourth Place: $500
  • Fifth Place: $250

Winning essays also will be featured on our Whistleblower Insider blog visited by more than 10,000 readers a month.

Application Deadline

You must submit your essay no later than August 1, 2021.

When Winners Will Be Selected

Your essays will be reviewed by members of the Constantine Cannon whistleblower lawyer team and winners will be announced by December 1, 2021.

Who We Are

Constantine Cannon is a law firm with offices located in New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco and London, specializing in antitrust and whistleblower law.  Our whistleblower practice is one of the largest and most successful whistleblower practice groups in the world, primarily focused on representing whistleblowers under the False Claims Act, the Whistleblower Programs of the SECCFTC and IRS, and the numerous other federal and state whistleblower programs.  In the past year alone, the firm settled four blockbuster False Claims Act cases, recovering more than $600 million for the government and the firm’s whistleblower clients. 

Essay Topic — The Importance of Whistleblowers

This is a gilded age for whistleblowers.  Relatively speaking that is.  It was not all that long ago that whistleblowers were treated as mere opportunists ratting out their friends or colleagues.  Squealing not for the greater good, but for a quick buck, or to cover up their own failings or misdeeds.  Many still see it that way.  After all, we are trained at an early age that nobody likes a snitch.

But a new mindset has emerged — where getting involved is actually the right thing to do; where if you see something, you are supposed to say something. And with this new outlook has come some additional prodding from a host of newly energized whistleblower protection and rewards laws that sweeten the pot considerably for these newfound heroes.  And we seem to read about them all the time. This one who reported on the pharmaceutical giant selling defective or mislabeled drugs. That one who reported on the medical clinic billing for services it never performed. Or the one who reported on the multibillion-dollar tax evasion scheme. The list goes on and on, touching upon virtually every industry in the country.

But while improving considerably, the picture is not all wine and roses for whistleblowers. Retaliation is as virulent as ever. And it is not just a cold shoulder from colleagues or superiors, or simply being excluded from work decisions or assignments.  It even goes beyond demotions, pay cuts, and firings. The retaliation sometimes goes so far as to include harassment and, in some cases, even physical violence. And it is not just happening within corporate America. It is just as rampant within the hallowed halls of some of our most respected government agencies.

Even mainstream America continues to maintain a sense of ambivalence, for some even downright hostility, towards whistleblowers. Look at how they are commonly depicted in our everyday lexicon by Thesaurus.com and Merriam-Webster, the two leading resources for everything word-related. Of the 30 synonyms these publications use to describe whistleblowers to their 90 million monthly visitors, the vast majority of them are deeply derogatory and paint the whistleblower as dishonest, disloyal and driven by unsavory motives — Betrayer, Bigmouth, Fink, Rat, Snitch, Squealer, Tattletale and Troublemaker to name just a few.

Is it any wonder that despite the progress we have made in recognizing the importance of whistleblowers, a negative perception of whistleblowers persists?  That is where you come in. As the future guardians of justice in this country, we want to hear from you on the important role whistleblowers play, and what more we can do to encourage and protect them.

We would like you to write an essay between 250 and 750 words that addresses one or more of the following subjects:

  • What it means to be a whistleblower.
  • A whistleblower act you personally have experienced.
  • A whistleblower who has inspired you.
  • The importance of whistleblowers to promoting transparency in government and protecting the health and safety of the public.
  • The best way to encourage whistleblowers to say something when they see something.
  • Whistleblowers in the face of a global pandemic.

We look forward to reading what you have to say.

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