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Whistleblowers Face Legal Challenges

Doing the right thing often takes a clear conscience. For employees, it also takes a tremendous sense of courage and some fundamental understanding of the law. When you find out that your employer or the company that you’re working for is doing something legally unsound or ethically dubious, you may find yourself in a difficult situation. That inner moral guide may tell you to report what you know: a crime, a fraud, some irregularity or violation of practice, but you may be afraid of retaliation or discrimination or fired by your employer for doing the right thing.

There are many state and federal laws that help employees to overcome this fear and protect them from possible retaliation for being a whistleblower. In cases of government fraud, the False Claims Act allows an individual to sue on behalf of the federal government. This 147-year-old law was enacted during the Civil War time to prevent armament profiteering. It has become, in recent years, prosecutors and whistleblowers’ most useful weapon in fighting crimes and frauds committed by government contractors.

Example: West Point grad John Kopchinsky, became a Pfizer sales rep when he left the Army. When he found out that Pfizer fraudulently promoted the usage of Bextra, a painkiller, far beyond that which was approved by the FDA, he complained to management. But his complaint was ignored. And as his concerns grew, the “ethical line kept moving” in the wrong direction. By the time he was talking with lawyers about evidences he had gathered on the company’s promotion of Bextra in 2003, he was already fired by Pfizer. Because of Kopchinsky’s good conscience, upstanding courage, and sound legal representation, Bextra was withdrawn from the market in 2005, and Kopchinsky will be awarded $51.5 million of the money recovered by the feds for his help. Furthermore, he’ll also get a share of the money being returned to various states.

Kopchinsky’s case represents an ever growing trend in the legal world of fraud fighting and prevention. Public Citizen, a consumer group, reports that financial penalties against drug companies under the federal False Claims Act including fines and settlements since 1991 totaled $19.8 billion. And most of that money (about three-quarters) was paid by drug companies over the past five years. So it is clear that documented pharma fraud has been accelerating.

One of the reasons for this huge increase in reported pharma fraud is the parallel increase in the number of industry insiders emboldened to make public dirty industry secrets. Public Citizen reports that whistleblower cases made up only 9% of pharma payouts to the government in the 1990s, but 67% in the past decade. They now do so with the promise of a share in the penalties.

Despite the soaring penalties, whistleblowers are still in a legally fragile situation because whistleblower cases often involve very complex set of facts and employment history. In retaliation, the company/employer may claim other work related pretext as justification for discrimination or firing. Our whistleblower lawyers at NachtLaw can provide you with expert legal advice, as well as legal representation to cut through an employer’s excuses and wrongdoings. Proper representation and advice makes it easier for you to do the right thing and avoid the dangers associated with being the one to blow the whistle.

At NachtLaw, P.C., Nacht & Roumel, P.C. ., we counsel people in many different settings who are under pressure, unsure of their legal options, and how it will all impact their careers. You don’t have to suffer alone; come in for a consultation. Call 866-965-2488.