There is some misunderstanding about what defines a whistleblower. When Edward Snowdon went public with millions of pages of NSA documents, he claimed the title of whistleblower – a claim which many others attacked. He wasn’t a whistleblower, they said – he was a spy. Some felt he deserved a Nobel peace prize; others saw him as a traitor.
Of course, the Snowdon case is about politics and policy. But even with qui tam or False Claims Act cases, in which someone goes public with evidence of fraud against the government, emotion runs high on both sides.
Courage is not optional
What defines a whistleblower? In our experience, they have more in common with one another than differences. One key quality is courage. The whistleblower accepts the price of enormous stress as they go against colleagues and friends; and the organization the whistle is blown on feels very betrayed, and would love to retaliate.
Whistleblowers put themselves in danger – career danger, as well as social jeopardy — because they are unable to look the other way when fraud becomes apparent. Some acknowledge that the only alternative to blowing the whistle is to collude with the illegal actions – sharing in the culpability and conspiracy, and even exposing themselves to the risk of blackmail. Some decide to blow the whistle when it becomes apparent they are being set up to take the fall.
Not in their nature
Most tell us it was just not in their nature to ignore illegal acts. That’s a lonely place to be, and society owes these individuals a great debt.
At Fischer Legal Group, whistleblower cases are an area of keen interest. We represent external whistleblowers – those who report fraudulent actions that cheat state and especially taxpayers. We represent a wide variety of fraud whistleblowers, from Medicare/Medicaid fraud to government procurement scams to defense contractor fraud.