Top 10 Whistleblowers of the Decade

Written by on October 26, 2012 in Money - No comments | Print this page

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People who report fraudulent activities being committed by individuals, corporations and sometimes even governments have become affectionately referred to as ‘whistleblowers.’ These individuals release information that the aforementioned entities would rather the rest of the world not know. In America, the term is usually used in reference to people who file lawsuits under the False Claims Act.

The False Claims Act gives citizens the right to sue, on behalf of the government, entities that are defrauding governmental programs. These whistleblowers stand to gain up to thirty percent of any damages that the government recovers due to the suit. Whistleblowing has received a great deal of attention in the news lately, but there are ten individuals in particular have come to define what it means to be a whistleblower in the past decade.

Cheryl Eckard

Cheryl Eckard reported to her employer GlaxoSmithKline that one of their factories in Puerto Rico was being negligent when producing pharmaceutical drugs. She was ignored and subsequently fired for repeatedly bringing up the issue. She eventually reported the issue to the government and was rewarded ninety-six million dollars for her troubles.

Joe Darby

Joe Darby is proof that a thirty percent reward isn’t necessary for some people to blow the whistle on wrongdoings. Darby was the first soldier to report the abuse of prisoners of war at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Darby received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award due to his actions.

Julian Assange

Not many people can lay claim to the amount of whistleblowing that Julian Assange can. Assange is the editor-in-chief at Wikileaks and consistently leaks classified information that governments would rather not have in the public eye. One of the largest leaking incidents Assange was involved in is widely credited to have started the Arab Spring revolution.

Wendell Potter

Wendell Potter is the former Vice President of corporate communications at the health insurance company CIGNA. Potter spoke out against HMOs to Congress and claimed that healthcare insurance corporations were using distortion and deceitful tactics to turn a profit at the expense of American citizens’ health.

Richard Convertino

Richard Convertino was the first federal prosecutor to obtain a conviction against a terrorist after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He later reported that the Bush Administration had not given support related to anti-terrorism prosecutions after 9/11. Convertino claims to still be dealing with negative repercussions due to his whistleblowing.

Marc Hodler

Marc Hodler revealed the improper methods that Salt Lake City, Utah officials used to secure the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. He exposed the fact that possibly millions of dollars worth of gifts were bought for officials who chose the location of the Games. It was no surprise that the Olympics went four hundred million dollars over budget that year, but Hodler’s revelations led to updated rules for choosing the city that hosts the Olympics.

Bradley Birkenfeld

Brandley Birkenfeld was an employee for UBS, a foreign bank that was helping rich Americans evade taxes from the IRS. Birkenfeld was actually complicit in the fraud, so he ended up serving forty months in federal prison. Once he got out, however, he had $104 million awaiting him as a reward for blowing the whistle on his former employer.

Coleen Rowley

Coleen Rowley was an FBI field agent when the terrorist attacks on 9/11 occurred. In 2002, she blew the whistle on the FBI for having ignored information that certain people may have been planning terrorist attacks on American soil. She fully felt that the attacks could’ve been prevented, or at least delayed, had the information been taken seriously. Her whistleblowing led to improved FBI counter-terrorism investigations.

Kyle Lagow

Kyle Lagow blew the whistle on Bank of America in 2012 for fraud involving underwriting and mortgages. Bank of America settled, and Lagow was rewarded $14.5 million for his troubles.

John Kopchinski

John Kopchinski filed a lawsuit against Pfizer under the False Claims Act in 2009 alleging dangerous and illegal promotion of the drug Bextra. The lawsuit led to an enormous government investigation into Pfizer which ended with the pharmaceutical company paying over $2.3 billion in damages all over the world. Kopchinski received $102 million for reporting the illegal activity.

Whistleblowers take a huge risk when they decide to report fraud. This makes it imperative to hire False Claims Act attorneys before filing a suit under the Act.The reward can be great, but they are likely to lose their jobs in the process. This is why it is important not to take on a suit under the False Claims Act alone. Failing in these suits usually means a person will receive no reward for reporting the fraud and will likely face social and financial consequences.

This is a guest post.  Katie Hewatt is legal researcher and contributing author for the Attorneys of Goldberg Kohn, False Claims Act attorneys that specialize in whistleblower cases. The mission of the Attorneys at Goldberg Kohn is to fight fraud against the government, help whistleblowers recover as large amount of compensation as possible, and protect their rights.

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