On Tuesday, July 30th, leading whistleblower attorney Stephen Kohn appeared on “Washington Journal,” a program that runs daily on C-Span. Kohn spoke about the origins of “National Whistleblower Appreciation Day” and the need for stronger protections for whistleblowers.
July 30thmarked the anniversary of the first whistleblower law, enacted 241 years ago. Kohn explained how the history of whistleblowing began, recounting the story of brave sailors and marines who reported misconduct committed by their commander. “The founding fathers put everything on the line,” Kohn said. “In the middle of the American Revolution, they paused and said: every inhabitant of the United States should report waste, fraud, and corruption to Congress and the appropriate authorities.”
Kohn pointed out the advancements in whistleblower law since the original legislation. “Whistleblowers now have some of the most powerful anti-corruption tools available ever,” Kohn noted. “There’s nothing like it. Whistleblowers can [report] anonymously and confidentially. They can report the largest frauds in banking, securities, commodity exchange, government contracting. And they can qualify for financial rewards, which means you don’t have to wait to be fired and a jury gives you a judgement because your life has been ruined. If your information is good and leads to successful enforcement, you can get a percentage. And it’s working, in 2018 the U.S. government paid whistleblowers over $800 million in rewards, and no one even knows it.”
Kohn, a partner in the qui tam law firm Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto, is the author of The New Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself. Kohn explained the “New” modern whistleblower uses the new anti-corruption tools of the modern-day whistleblower laws. They work with the government, report confidentially, remain anonymous, and they are key sources of information about corruption, bank fraud, tax fraud, fraud in government contracting, and foreign bribery. The modern whistleblower also partners with honest government investigators to go after large corporations that are engaged in wrongdoing.
Kohn’s advice on what to do if you decide to become a whistleblower? “Find out what your rights are under the whistleblower law that covers you and then try to find the best one,” Kohn said.