A study conducted by the Ethics Resource Center found that 62 million Americans have witnessed fraud or misconduct at work. Whistleblowers are key to combatting this widespread corporate corruption.
Many people who see corporate wrongdoing rightfully fear that speaking up will cost them their jobs and livelihoods. This is a valid concern. Those considering whistleblowing should know that California and federal law grant many protections.
Under some laws, a whistleblower can even remain totally anonymous throughout the entire process of reporting fraud or crime.
There are over 50 different state and federal whistleblower protection laws, each of which grants different protections and has different requirements. Because this area of law is extremely complex, you should set up a free, confidential consultation with one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys to learn about your options.
When Can A Whistleblower Remain Anonymous?
Some whistleblower laws allow whistleblowers to remain completely anonymous throughout the process, meaning that no one knows who you are or that you blew the whistle. Under these laws, your attorney provides the government with information and affirms that you are a real person with true information, but does not provide your name.
Laws that allow you to remain totally anonymous, bring a whistleblower complaint, and collect proceeds or whistleblower awards include:
- The Securities Exchange Act (SEC Act), which covers fraud in publicly traded companies, is one of the laws that allows whistleblowers to remain totally anonymous. Whistleblowers under the SEC Act receive 10 to 30% of the total proceeds collected by the government.
- The Commodity Exchange Act, which covers fraud in commodities trading—like oil, food, electricity, gold, etc.—allows whistleblowers to file anonymous claims. Whistleblowers under the Commodities Exchange Act also receive 10 to 30% of the total proceeds collected by the government.
- The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which covers bribery of foreign government officials, allows whistleblowers to remain anonymous and collect 10 to 30% of the proceeds recovered by the government.
When Can a Whistleblower's Claim Remain Confidential?
Many whistleblower laws allow whistleblowers to keep their claims confidential. Bringing a confidential claim is different than remaining anonymous—the government and the defendant may know who you are—but it prevents you from being publicly named as the source of information. For example, when you are looking for a new job, your prospective employer wouldn’t be able to learn that you were a whistleblower. Your friends and family wouldn’t be able to Google you and find out that you were involved in whistleblower litigation.
While this is less protective than remaining truly anonymous, it addresses many of the concerns that whistleblowers have when making claims, particularly if you have already left, or plan to leave, the employer on whom you are blowing the whistle.
Laws that allow whistleblowers to remain confidential include:
- The False Claims Act (covering fraud in government contracting) allows you to file your claim under seal during the first phase of the proceeding while the government investigates. Whistleblowers under the False Claims Act (FCA) are entitled to 15 to 30% of the amount collected by the government from the wrongdoer.
- The IRS treats all whistleblower information as strictly confidential, with strict rules on who can access the information. Tax fraud whistleblowers are entitled to 15 to 30% of the proceeds collected by the government.
- The Motor Vehicle Safety Act (MVSA) allows whistleblowers to file confidential claims and collect 10 to 30% of the proceeds obtained by the government.
These are just examples. Other laws provide some level of confidentiality to whistleblowers.
Talk to an Experienced Whistleblower Rights Attorney
An experienced whistleblower rights attorney will be able to help you navigate these complicated laws and understand whether you can remain anonymous or keep your complaint confidential. If you are considering becoming a whistleblower, we commend you for considering this brave and important step to create corporate accountability. You should contact us today for a confidential, free consultation.