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Qui Tam Whistleblower—Not an Easy Moneymaker

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Anaheim, CAJanet (not her real name), says she isn't afraid of being a Qui Tam Whistleblower, because now that she has been terminated, she feels that there's really nothing left to lose. Now she has decided to pursue a qui tam lawsuit against her former employer.

Sometimes, a disgruntled employee considers becoming a qui tam government whistleblower perhaps in retaliation for being suspended or terminated. But more often than not, an employee who threatens to blow the whistle is fired as a retaliation, even though federal whistleblower law states that it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against a whistleblower. But in Janet's case, "I can't walk away from this injustice and be OK with myself," she says.

Janet apologizes for being vague, but she cannot say anything specific in case she does have a qui tam claim, but she can say that "I was interviewing a few night attendants at a government drug and alcohol center about possible work violations and getting information about how long this was going on. At the same time I did a personal investigation about a fraud and turned over that information to the appropriate government agency."

She also did some research about this organization online—any previous lawsuits on unethical behavior or illegal actions—and discovered several previous lawsuits that were settled out of court.

"At first I was on job suspension when I caught the CEO in a fraud-related action and reported him to our county contract administrator," says Janet. "Within 24 hours I was suspended by the CEO and ten days later I was terminated. My attorney has filed a wrongful termination claim, which I am confident of winning. I know my employer was trying to find a way to get rid of me, but he couldn't come up with anything. So he made up a feeble excuse for suspending me—I was being paid to stay home—until I was fired. "

Deciding to make a qui tam government claim can mean losing your job and that happens more often than not to qui tam whistleblowers. The recent whistleblower law, (the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act ) authorizes the SEC to reward those who expose fraud at public companies from 10 to 30 percent of the amount it recovers over $1 million, making the role of whistleblower very tempting. However, a qui tam suit could take years, if ever. Janet is hopeful that she will soon be compensated in her wrongful termination case; in the meantime, she has dipped into her savings and doesn't know how long she can hold out financially.

Janet is aware of successful qui tam whistleblower suits, such as $70 million awarded to a former Pfizer salesman in a qui tam suit that paid an incredible $2.3 billion in mid-2009 to settle civil and criminal charges against the drug company for using illegal sales tactics. And last October, $96 million was awarded to a former GlaxoSmithKline employee for her whistleblower action in a manufacturing fraud case.

According to Reuters (March 7, 2011), a record 573 new qui tam cases were filed in fiscal 2010, up from 433 the year before. Justice Department data showed that awards for reporting fraud hit a record high of $385 million in the 12 months ended Sept 30, 2010. The total rose nearly 50 percent from the previous year and was the third increase in a row. Given those statistics, Janet is even more hopeful that she can hold on and that justice will be served.


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