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Whistleblower Tips

As someone considering blowing the whistle, you encounter challenging personal and legal choices. Frequently, these decisions arise in stressful situations that require quick responses. Your choices can profoundly affect your case and your future. Below are some general whistleblower tips to assist you. While we have provided these whistleblower tips to help you understand the law anonymously, each situation is unique and requires a different course of action. We therefore strongly encourage you to contact us. It’s confidential and it’s free.

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Tip # 1: Educate Yourself on the Law

Generally, your employer has the advantage, and these are difficult waters to navigate without the right advice. Understanding your rights is crucial. Before making major decisions like resigning from your job or reporting fraud internally, it's a good idea to reach out to a whistleblower attorney.

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Tip # 2: Preserve Evidence

The most critical evidence of fraud may exist in your documents, recordings, or conversations. It is essential to preserve all of it. Your cell phone and laptop may contain evidence like emails, text or instant messages, videos, spreadsheets, or PDFs. Your evidence might be on devices or accounts that belong to your employer. Safeguard this information and create a backup of all data so if your employer takes back the devices or locks you out of your accounts, you still have the information. You should also take notes of important conversations shortly after they happen. These cases take years to resolve. While conversations might be fresh in your memory then, your recollection may diminish, so it is important to make notes of events, detailing when they happened, who said what and who was present.

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Tip # 3: Be Cautious When Taking Documents

False Claims Act cases require a substantial amount of evidence which is frequently contained in documents owned by your employer. Determining which documents you can take to support your case is a complex matter that demands careful consideration. Employers often argue that whistleblowers who take documents or other evidence are stealing company property, disclosing trade secrets, or breaching patient privacy laws. Usually, the public interest in stopping fraud takes precedence over an employer's property rights regarding its confidential information. However, there are notable exceptions, such as documents protected by attorney-client privilege. Therefore, before taking documents, we strongly recommend you seek advice from an attorney.

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Tip # 4: Recording Conversations May Be Illegal

Modern technology makes recording conversations easy and these recordings can be strong evidence of fraud. State and federal laws, however, prohibit recording in certain situations and violating these laws can result in criminal charges. For telephone recordings, some states require the consent of all parties to the conversation, while others require the consent of only one party. For example, in Nevada, you must have the consent of all parties to record a telephone conversation. It is not always clear whether state or federal law applies, and if state law applies, which of the two (or more) state laws control. For in person recordings, the laws are different. In Nevada, you only need the consent of one party to record an in-person conversation. Just like handling documents that don't belong to you, you should exercise caution and seek legal advice before recording.

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Tip # 5: Carefully Consider Complaining Internally 

It's important to understand that raising concerns, even though proper channels like compliance, can make you a target and lead to retaliation or termination. In situations where fraud is still happening, it might be more beneficial to the Government if you remain silent and gather information as an insider. Oftentimes you can assist the Government in acquiring critical evidence, such as by collecting documents and emails and monitoring phone conversations and meetings. 

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Tip # 6: Be Cautious with Separation Agreements 

Usually, when an employee is let go, the employer asks them to sign a severance agreement in exchange for severance pay and benefits. These agreements often include provisions where the employee agrees not to make certain claims against the employer. Depending on how these clauses are written, they might cover actions like reporting fraud under the False Claims Act. While some laws forbid these kinds of agreements, they can still pose a considerable risk to your case. It's advisable to seek the advice of an attorney before signing them.

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Tip # 7: Do Not Discuss the Fraud

Avoid discussing fraud you have discovered with others or posting about it on social media. Doing so can lead to unintended consequences. For instance, you might inadvertently inspire someone else to file a case before you do. If they file a case first, you are ineligible for any reward, even if you were the one who uncovered the fraud. 

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Tip # 8: Time is of the Essence

If you intend to pursue a whistleblower case, times is of the essence for several reasons. First, the False Claims Act has “race to the courthouse” or “first to file” rule, meaning the first person to file their case is the only one who can get the reward. Second, even you are the first to file, you might be unable to claim a reward if the allegations have already been “publicly disclosed,” such as in news reports or Government investigations. Finally, the False Claims Act has a “statute of limitations”, a specific deadline by which you have to file your case. It's advisable to file your case as soon as your lawyers can thoroughly assess the facts and submit them to the court.

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Tip # 9: Tell Your Lawyers Everything

As our client, you are an essential part of our team. What you experience has an impact on you, your attorneys, and your case. At times, being a whistleblower can be stressful and isolating. You may have confided in a colleague when you should not have or discovered documents which support the other side. It’s important to communicate these issues with your legal team so we can find a way to address them early, rather than have the Government uncover them and become suspicious we are hiding things.

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Tip # 10: Understand These Cases Take Time

A Harvard research team found the average whistleblower receives their reward 4 years after they file suit and 75% of all whistleblowers receive their reward within 5 years. However, 25% of cases drag on past 5 years. Although this can be a satisfying and vindicating journey, it is important to remember the wheels of justice turn slowly.

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