Top-10 Whistleblower Developments of 2014
By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team
Here is our look-back at the top-10 whistleblower developments for 2014.
10. IRS Whistleblowers — The IRS issued final rules designed to improve and expand the reach of its whistleblower program. Given the program’s somewhat lackluster results to date, change was certainly needed. But only time will tell whether these rules go far enough.
9. CFTC Whistleblowers — The CFTC issued its first award under the agency’s still fledgling Dodd-Frank Act whistleblower program.
8. FBI Whistleblowers — The FBI’s whistleblower rules are set for a significant expansion with planned changes to eleven areas of its whistleblower program. Once implemented, the new rules would bring FBI whistleblowers much closer to other government employees in the whistleblower protections to which they are entitled.
7. Food Safety Whistleblowers– The Government Accountability Project (GAP) unveiled a new website designed to support whistleblowers reporting on food safety issues. The website is part of GAP’s Food Integrity Campaign, an effort to protect and empower whistleblowers in sounding the alarm on fraud and abuse in our food supply chain.
6. Animal Rights Whistleblowers — Whistleblowers now have a dedicated hotline to anonymously report animal abuse without running afoul of the so-called “ag-gag” laws aimed at criminalizing the documentation of cruelty on factory farms. The Humane Society launched the hotline for whistleblowers to report cruelty and neglect on factory farms, at livestock auctions and in slaughter houses, offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who have committed acts of cruelty to farm animals.
5. Veteran Whistleblowers– The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) together launched VAOversight, a secure whistleblower website to report fraud, mismanagement and abuse in the Department of Veterans Affairs following allegations that a Phoenix VA hospital suffered from treatment delays, had hidden wait lists and caused the potentially preventable deaths of up to 40 veterans.
4. UK Whistleblowers — The United Kingdom continues to reject the idea of US-styled whistleblower rewards. It first made official its opposition to this lynchpin of the American whistleblower system in the response by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills to the “Call for Evidence” it put out last year soliciting comments on how to improve the country’s burgeoning whistleblower system. Since then, two more UK regulators have piled on with their own strongly worded (but ill-advised) assessment that whistleblower rewards are a bad idea.
3. Intelligence Whistleblowers — In the wake of the Edward Snowden fiasco last year, many blamed the US government as much as they did the former NSA contractor for the leaks leading to one of the biggest national security failures in US history. That is because for intelligence whistleblowers like Snowden, the government offered no protections, no incentives, no reasons of any kind to stay within the system. This gaping hole in the US whistleblower regime may finally be plugged, at least partially, with President Obama’s signing into law legislation that offers protections for whistleblowers within the national intelligence community.
2. SEC Whistleblowers– The SEC reported record results for its whistleblower program for 2014. The SEC issued whistleblower awards to more people in 2014 than in all previous years combined, including a $30 million award, its largest award to date. The agency received more than 3,500 whistleblower tips, up by 20 percent from past years, including tips from every state and from numerous foreign countries, with the bulk of those coming from Britain, India, Canada, China and Australia.
1. DOJ Whistleblowers — The DOJ reported its recovery of a record $5.69 billion in False Claims Act settlements and judgments for 2014. It is the first time DOJ has crossed the $5 billion mark and brings to $22.75 billion the total False Claims Act recoveries DOJ has obtained since January 2009. What is the cause of this continued surge in the government’s False Claims Act recoveries? As the DOJ made clear in its announcement of this year’s record results, it is all about the whistleblowers. Of the $5.69 billion the government recovered this year, nearly $3 billion related to whistleblower lawsuits filed under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. More than 700 of these suits were filed this year, up from the 300 to 400 filed only a few years ago, and the measly 30 filed in 1987.
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