For every Enron and WorldCom that we see in the headlines, there are hundreds if not thousands of other companies that are tainted by fraud and wrongdoing. Although their stories may not reach the front page of the newspaper, the impact of their wrongdoing is just as far-reaching. It hurts our economy, wastes public tax dollars, and even costs some their lives.
Corporate wrongdoing comes in many different forms including: overbilling for materials or services not delivered, putting unsafe products in the marketplace, workplace safety violations, environmental safety violations, tax fraud, and/or investor fraud. As a result, whistleblowers have never been more important than they are today.
Federal and state laws provide that people who "blow the whistle" on companies that have defrauded the government are entitled to a percentage of all monies recovered in a legal action. Both California and federal laws allow private citizens to sue corporations on behalf of the government, when a corporation is committing fraud against taxpayers. Under these laws, the citizen, known as the "qui tam" plaintiff, is entitled to a percentage of any recovery obtained from such a lawsuit. SOHN LEGAL GROUP represents qui tam plaintiffs as part of its mission to battle corporate fraud.
Federal laws protect whistleblowers in a variety of fields. In the nuclear industry, the Energy Reorganization Act of 1978 protects employees and contractors who provide information about violations of nuclear safety laws and standards. Employees of publicly traded companies are protected by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 from retaliation for reporting fraud on shareholders or violations of securities laws. The False Claims Act prohibits retaliation against employees for disclosing fraud against the federal government. Federal employees can pursue retaliation claims under the Whistleblower Protection Act. Further, employees of private businesses and state and local governments who make disclosures about misuse of the federal government's stimulus funds are protected by the McCaskill Amendment. These are just a few of the many federal laws that protect citizens who speak out against corporate wrongdoing.
California offers its own statutory whistleblower protection, patterned after the federal False Claims Act. However, California's qui tam law has certain incentives that exceed those provided under its federal counterpart. Under California's qui tam law, if the government elects to intervene in the case, the qui tam plaintiff may recover at least 15 percent, but not more than 33 percent of any potential judgment or settlement. If the government declines to intervene, the qui tam plaintiff can recover between 25 and 50 percent of any potential settlement or judgment. Moreover, the successful qui tam plaintiff is entitled to recover his or her attorney's fees, costs and expenses.
California's qui tam law also provides more extensive whistleblower protections than the federal False Claims Act. In addition to providing protection from retaliation, California's qui tam law disallows an employer from implementing any policy that would prevent employees from disclosing information about fraud to the government. Further, it provides for punitive damages for unlawful retaliation. California also recognizes a common-law action for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, which means that an employer may not terminate an employee for reasons that would violate important public policies of the state, such as those that prohibit fraud or other crimes.
If you know or suspect your company has been defrauding the government, please send us a message by filling out a message form located on our website. You may also contact us at (415) 421-1300 for a free case evaluation. SOHN LEGAL GROUP is prepared to stand by your side in the fight against corporate greed.