What is a Whistleblower?

Merriam-Webster defines “whistleblower” to mean “one who reveals something covert or who informs against another, [especially] an employee who brings wrongdoing by an employer or by other employees to the attention of a government or law enforcement agency.”

Britannica notes that “although the term [whistleblower] was first used to refer to public servants who made known governmental mismanagement, waste, or corruption, it now covers the activity of any employee or officer of a public or private organization who alters a wider group to setbacks to their interests as a result of waste, corruption, fraud, or profit seeking.”

Frank Serpico testified against the corruption in the NYPD in the 1970s.

Famous Whistleblowers:

Frank Serpico (pictured above): New York City police officer who testified regarding the department’s widespread corruption in the 1970s.

Mark Felt: FBI Associate Director who provided critical information as “Deep Throat” to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to break the Watergate scandal.

Karen Silkwood: Lab analyst at an Oklahoma nuclear facility who testified about safety concerns to the Atomic Energy Commission.

Jeffrey Wigand: Head of research at Brown and Williamson Tobacco who spoke to “60 Minutes” about the company’s knowledge of cigarettes’ cancer-causing and addictive properties.

Mark Whitacre: Archer Daniels Midland executive who told the FBI about ADM’s global price-fixing endeavors.

Under the False Claims Act (FCA), whistleblowers often receive strong protections when reporting wrongdoing against the government, and, in many circumstances, those whistleblowers qualify to receive monetary portions of any recovery by the government by filing a qui tam action and thereafter obtaining a relator’s share of any penalties/settlement.  If you have questions about your rights or this process in general, please contact me by e-mail ([email protected]) or by phone (865-546-4646).


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