What is a Federal Whistleblower?

Whistleblowers reveal a broad range of fraudulent, unethical, and illegal acts against the government. Such malfeasants may be individuals or businesses. The Federal Claims Act (“FCA”) is a US statute that authorizes suits by private parties to redress such misconduct. 

Unjust economic enrichment at government expense is the common underlying element of all FCA suits. Practices and activities of private or government organizations can trigger FCA liability. Whistleblowers who expose actionable misconduct are denoted as “relators” in FCA statutory jargon. 

Key terminology

The term “Corporate” or “Federal” often precedes the whistleblower nomenclature. This verbiage delineates two categories of whistleblowers. Generally, corporate whistleblowers are employees of corporations or other private business concerns. 

Corporate whistleblowers

The main type of misconduct corporate whistleblowers expose are statutory or regulatory violation(s). Such abuses occur incident to ordinary business operations. Karen Silkwood is a notable example. Ms. Silkwood exposed numerous employee health violations at the nuclear facility where she worked in the 1970s.

Federal whistleblowers

Federal whistleblowers report fraudulent acts with more direct government connotations. Federal whistleblowers may be further subdivided as follows: 

Employees of governmental organizations and agencies who reveal improprieties committed by their employers; or, Private-sector employees who inform about fraudulent acts of their employers that are committed in relation to the federal government.

One famous example of a governmental employee whistleblower is Peter Buxton. As a 27-year-old US Public Health Service (“PHS“) social worker, Buxton blew the lid off the now-infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment.

PHS officials knowingly withheld syphilis treatment from impoverished rural residents of Tuskegee, Alabama. The project was purportedly launched to study the course of untreated syphilis. To insure the cooperation of experimental subjects, they were not informed of the project’s true nature. After Mr. Buxton leaked information to a New York Times reporter in 1972, the Experiment was discontinued immediately.

John Kopchinski was a notable private-sector employee Federal whistleblower. Mr. Kopchinski was a former sales representative for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc. During his tenure at Pfizer, Kopchinski discovered widespread deceptive advertising in connection with Bextra, an anti-inflammatory painkiller. In 2004, Kopchinski filed suit pursuant to FCA qui tam provisions. 

Pfizer eventually answered “guilty” to numerous criminal and civil charges. Ultimately, the firm paid the US government a total of $2.3 billion. Of this sum, $1.195 billion was derived solely from criminal sanctions. The Pfizer case yielded the single biggest criminal fine ever imposed in US history. Kopchinski and five other relators split another $102 billion in civil penalties. 

The stigma lifts

Bad companies, and badly run government can only harm the public. Those with knowledge of corporate or governmental fraud must do their duty as responsible citizens to report fraud or malfeasance.

The stigma and social ostracism federal whistleblowers once endured have largely evaporated. In their place, an awareness of widespread wastage of valuable public resources has arisen. Taxpayers and consumers have every right to highest integrity within organizations routinely entrusted with their health, safety, money, and lives.

National Whistleblower Center

Federal whistleblowers no longer need feel isolated or alone. They are among a rapidly-growing company of like-minded courageous citizens. The National Whistleblower Center (“NWC”) is a non-profit advocacy organization. Established in 1988, the NWC is headquartered in the District of Columbia. 

The NWC’s primary mission is providing essential whistleblower support throughout the entire US. In accord with this stated mission, NWC networks encompass numerous functions, including:

Career and job preservation for individual whistleblowers; Congressional lobbying for stronger legislative support of whistleblower protection; Conducting public education campaigns about the pertinent legal and social aspects of whistleblower activities.

Regardless of the specific scenario or misconduct involved in a federal whistleblower claim, the National Whistleblower Center is ready to extend full assistance.