Whistleblowers perform an important service in our society, especially as companies grow bigger, corporate financial statements grow murkier, and cheating sometimes generates little more than a cynical shrug. Many whistleblowers have saved untold numbers of lives. Some have had their own lives threatened, and a few have died. At times they have been considered heroes, at other times, traitors.
You’ve likely heard of some of the more famous US whistleblowers, because movies have been made about them:
- Frank Serpico, who reported widespread corruption in the New York City Police Department in the Sixties and Seventies. Film: Serpico, starring Al Pacino.
- Karen Silkwood, an employee of Kerr-McGee who documented unsafe working conditions at the plutonium plant where she worked. Contaminated with plutonium herself, she died in a car crash, with her proof documents missing, on her way to meet a journalist. Film: Silkwood, starring Meryl Streep.
- Jeffrey Wigand, who appeared on national television to reveal that Brown & Williamson Tobacco intentionally included more nicotine in cigarettes in order to addict smokers more heavily. Film: The Insider, starring Russell Crowe.
No doubt in the recent past you’ve also heard of Harry Markopolos, who blew the whistle on Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme (the largest one in history), and Sherron Watkins, whose information took down Enron. Additionally, whether or not you agree with what he did, Edward Snowden can be called a whistleblower.
But we’d like to introduce you to some folks you might not have heard of, who have done good, have saved money, and, sometimes, have saved lives.
- In 1984, John Michael Gravitt filed a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act against General Electric, becoming the first person in 40 years to do so. Gravitt sued GE for falsely billing the U.S. Department of Defense for work on the B1 Lancer bomber. He was laid off from his job after he complained to supervisors. His case led to new federal legislation that strengthened the False Claims Act of 1986, which made it easier for whistleblowers to collect damages. The settlement was a record (at the time) $3.5 million.
- In 2009, John Kopchinski, a former Pfizer sales representative who is also a West Point graduate, launched a qui tam suit which led to a government investigation into Pfizer’s illegal marketing of Bextra, a prescription painkiller that had caused deaths. The result ultimately was a $1.8 billion payout by Pfizer for the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history.
- In 2003, Courtland Kelley headed up the General Motors inspection and quality assurance program. When he reported problems with the Chevrolet Cavalier and Cobalt models to his superiors, he received little response, so he sued. Even though he lost his case, he had done the right thing; ignition switches in the Cobalts ended up being linked to a number of crashes, resulting in 13 deaths. Because of Kelley, Cobalts were recalled and lives were saved. GM was fined $35 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for failing to recall the cars initially.
We at the Louthian Law Firm hope that this small peek into a few of the many dozens of whistleblowers who have done the right thing will inspire you to stand up against fraud should you encounter it.
When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.
If you have insider knowledge about governmental fraud, you could be entitled to a significant cash reward in a whistleblower suit. Whether it is Medicare fraud, tax fraud, defense contractor fraud, mortgage fraud, or some other kind of fraud, an experienced whistleblower attorney like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement with the government if you have a valid case. In some instances, the government will “intervene” or take part in your lawsuit. A qualified attorney can help you structure your claims in such a way that the government will be persuaded to intervene in your case, possibly increasing the likelihood that you will recover reward money. However, even if the government doesn’t decide to intervene, it might still be advisable to pursue your case without government involvement.
For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at (803) 454-1200 or fill out the online consultation form. Louthian Law Firm. 80 years of experience—on your side.