Whistleblower Advocacy and Experience
Through our vigorous advocacy, which includes the use of analytics, comprehensive investigations, and extensive legal analysis, DiCello Levitt has successfully worked with the government in litigating significant whistleblower claims. With notable success on behalf of our clients, we also have pursued private litigation across a swath of industries. We protect whistleblowers from discrimination and retaliation, and help them get compensated for their role in government investigations.
We distinguish ourselves from other whistleblower advocacy firms through our expansive subject matter expertise across industries and regulatory regimes. Notably, our lawyers bring a wealth of knowledge from their experience as prosecutors and trial attorneys at the Department of Justice and other government agencies, as well as from their prior work in private practice. Our lawyers are recognized and respected by their peers for being fair, honest, and meticulous. Their network of relationships with other members of the whistleblower bar, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys across the country, lets them move matters quickly and efficiently toward a successful resolution – one that benefits both our whistleblower clients and the government agencies and programs our clients seek to protect.
Each whistleblower statute has its own protections, rewards, and procedures. DiCello Levitt has represented whistleblowers under a variety of statutes in multiple industries. If you have witnessed fraud, waste, or abuse against a government institution, contact us today so we can help you identify your best options for exposing this corruption while protecting yourself.
The Federal False Claims Act (FCA) and its State Equivalents
The FCA is designed to root out and redress fraud against the federal government (and consequently federal taxpayers). Broadly speaking, the FCA prohibits individuals and organizations from making false claims or producing fraudulent records to obtain payment from the federal government. About 30 states and several localities have passed laws similar to the FCA to protect against fraud, waste, and abuse affecting those governments. These statutes essentially allow the government to recover “treble damages” (three times the amount of money the government lost due to the fraud) along with civil penalties amounting to thousands of dollars per violation.
The FCA covers many federally funded agencies and programs. Beyond protecting taxpayers, the FCA shields patients from fraudulent, harmful practices related to a host of issues, such as pharmaceuticals, medical procedures, defense contractors, federal grants. State law equivalents to the FCA protect a range of state government programs, such as Medicaid.
Federal and state entities often heavily on whistleblowers for vital information to build these cases. For this reason, these statutes contain “qui tam” provisions (Latin for “who also”) that allow whistleblowers (called “relators”) to report fraud and other illegal actions. These qui tam provisions allow the relator to bring a lawsuit against the bad actor on behalf of the government and also on behalf of himself or herself. The government decides whether to take over the relator’s case directly or let the relator go forward with the suit on the government’s behalf. Either way, relators are entitled to a percentage of the government’s financial recovery – between 15% and 35%.
However, to receive a reward, you must be the first to file. Whistleblowers are eligible for a reward only if they provide original information the government has not already received from another source. This is why it is critical to contact an attorney and potentially file a lawsuit as soon as you suspect fraud has been perpetrated on the government.
The Whistleblower Advocacy Team at DiCello Levitt has extensive experience representing relators in both federal and state qui tam proceedings involving a wide spectrum of government programs and industries, including in connection with pandemic relief programs. If you have information about fraud against the government, contact us today for a free, confidential consultation – because if you aren’t first to blow the whistle, you will not be entitled to compensation.
Agency Whistleblower Regimes
In addition to the FCA, Congress has passed several statutes creating incentives to whistleblowers to confidentially bring information about illegal conduct directly to certain regulatory and law enforcement agencies. Some of these, like the FCA, involve whistleblowers with information about persons or companies that have harmed or short-changed the government.
Other programs do not involve fraud on the government, but instead, aim to root out conduct that harms investors or consumers, or criminal conduct such as money laundering. Each program encourages whistleblowers to come forward by offering a substantial percentage of any penalty, fine, or damages the agency recovers based on the whistleblower’s tip.
The Security and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) whistleblower program extends to a range of securities laws, including laws protecting investors in capital markets who rely upon the full and accurate financial and cybersecurity disclosures of public companies in order to make prudent investments. Unlike under the FCA, SEC whistleblowers cannot file their own lawsuits against suspected wrongdoers but must rely on the SEC to investigate their claims. Enforcement actions from SEC whistleblower tips have resulted in more than $2.5 billion in financial remedies. If the government recovers more than $1 million, a whistleblower who provides timely, voluntary, original information leading to the sanctions can receive 10% to 30% of the reward.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CTFT) has a similar whistleblower program designed to root out bad actors who undermine the effectiveness of the commodities and foreign exchange markets. Both programs allow whistleblowers to confidentially submit a “TCR,” or “tip, complaint, or referral,” which can trigger an enforcement proceeding that may result in the recovery of a substantial penalty against the bad actor.
DiCello Levitt has represented numerous individuals and entities who have come forward to the SEC, CFTC, IRS, and other agencies with critical information about illegal conduct by some of the world’s largest companies. Our lawyers work closely with whistleblower clients to develop compelling narratives and then draw upon our extensive contacts within enforcement agencies to help persuade them to take action against perpetrators. We then work to ensure that our whistleblower clients get full credit for the value of their tips and are appropriately compensated from any resulting government recovery.
COVID-19 Program Fraud, including Paycheck Protection Fraud
The federal government created several relief programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Because these programs were passed by Congress on an emergency basis, they have been highly susceptible to fraud. For example, it’s estimated that employers have fraudulently claimed billions of dollars in relief under the PPP – at taxpayers’ expense. As of March 2022, the Department of Justice reported:
- Criminal charges against more than 1,000 defendants, with losses exceeding $1.1 billion
- Seizure of more than $1 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loan proceeds
- More than 240 civil investigations into more than 1,800 individuals and entities for fraud in pandemic relief loan programs totaling more than $6 billion.
Whistleblowers play a pivotal role in ensuring that PPP loan proceeds are acquired and spent appropriately. Whistleblowers who suspect PPP loan fraud can file a claim under the federal False Claims Act and potentially receive a significant whistleblower award. DiCello Levitt represents whistleblowers nationwide who report suspected Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) fraud to the federal government. If you suspect that an individual or company has committed pandemic-related fraud or broken PPP loan agreement rules, contact DiCello Levitt for a confidential consultation – do it today, because you must be the first to report original information to recover an award.
How to recognize PPP fraud
Because the government provided PPP loans (and later forgave most of them, essentially converting them into grants), they required minimal underwriting, which made them especially susceptible to fraudulent borrower applications. PPP fraud occurs when employers did not meet the requirements to apply for a loan or did not conform with the terms for loan forgiveness, but sought and obtained the loan anyway. Some examples of PPP loan fraud evidence include:
- Falsifying payroll records to show that the business maintained compensation levels when it actually cut workers’ pay;
- Falsifying employment records to show the business kept all its employees on payroll, when in reality it fired or laid off some staff;
- Falsifying past payroll records to receive a higher PPP loan; and
- Using loan funds for purposes other than those for which the loan was intended, such as personal expenses or vacations.
A financial institution could also be liable for fraudulently approving a PPP loan when it knew or should have known that an employer was not qualified to receive the funds.
PPP fraud is reported under the federal False Claims Act. If you believe you have witnessed evidence of PPP loan fraud, contact DiCello Levitt today for a confidential case review.
Protection From Whistleblower Retaliation
It can be scary to blow the whistle on an employer, especially if you fear that the employer will retaliate against you for getting it into trouble. Such fears are entirely reasonable, but DiCello Levitt can help protect you. Importantly, the FCA and all of the agency whistleblower regimes described above help to protect whistleblowers from retaliation. Specifically, employers are not allowed to retaliate against employees who report fraud or other misconduct to the government, and when they do, they are required to pay for the damages, including:
- Back pay
- Front pay (compensation that’s lost between the time of judgment and reinstatement)
- Out-of-pocket costs
- Pain and suffering
- Attorneys’ fees
- Court costs
- Punitive damages
Protect yourself from retaliation for reporting fraud by speaking with a lawyer who has experience in whistleblower cases. DiCello Levitt knows the steps to keep whistleblowers safe and get them the compensation they deserve for taking risks to achieve justice, including compensation for any attempts to silence or retaliate against them.
Contact us today for a confidential consultation on your case so we can help you determine the path forward.