In the last post and video I talked about how whistleblowers are protected from termination for their whistleblowing. This time, I’m going to talk about a second type of whistleblowing case: the situation where you learn that someone – often it is a current or former employer, but it doesn’t have to be – is cheating the government.

In this type of case, you are entitled by law to a bounty that is a percentage of the amount the government saves as a result of your whistleblowing actions. These awards can get huge – into tens of millions of dollars. But these cases are very complex and you have to know exactly what to do, what to say, who to say it who, and when to say it, to preserve your rights to that huge bounty.

What are some issues and wrinkles?

First, we’re talking about cheating the government, but what does “government” mean when we talk about whistleblowing? The answer is that it means any branch of the United States Government, or any branch of any state government where the state has its own whistleblowing laws – and most states do.

Also – and this is critical – “government” includes contractors and suppliers to the government. So, if your employer – who never sells anything directly to the government – sells fraudulent aircraft parts to a manufacturer that in turn sells the aircraft to the government, you may be entitled to a whistleblowing award.

Next, what does “cheating” mean? Almost any kind of fraud or deception that causes the government not to get everything it pays for at price it agreed to pay or that it is entitled to pay under law.

The types of industry and the types of cheating are almost limitless. These include defense industries, health care services or prescription drugs sold through medicare, public works projects, and lets not forget tax cheating – which is a special type of whistleblowing case. Cheating can be on a huge scale, such as lying about the engineering specifications for a public structure like a bridge, or on a small scale that is repeated a lot, such as selling nuts and bolts that do not meet the government’s contractual specifications.

Another issue is that the whistleblower has to be the cause of the cheater getting caught and the government saving money. You can’t take something you see on TV and become a whistleblower, you have to be the one to expose the cheating.

How can you expose fraud on the government and make sure you receive the largest possible whistleblowing award? That is a complicated question. As you can imagine, with so much money at stake, other people will try to say they are entitled to the award and the government will try to avoid paying the award.

Aiman-Smith & Marcy is a boutique plaintiffs’ law firm based in Oakland, California. Our attorneys specialize in representing employees and consumers in individual and class action lawsuits for wrongful termination, discrimination, and for failure to pay wages, including overtime, meal and rest breaks, and failure to reimburse for expenses as required by law or agreement.

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