President Abraham Lincoln signed the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. §§3729-2733 on March 2, 1862. Since the FCA was signed into law it has become the most successful anti-fraud act in the United States. In 1986 major changes were made to the FCA, which increased damages significantly for these cases by, among other changes, raising penalties to be between $5,000-$10,000.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices is the single most important legal tool to that end. In 2010, as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, whistleblowers obtained protections for raising allegations of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations. As amended by the Dodd-Frank Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’s power to protect whistleblowers and combat corruption is truly remarkable.
Whistleblowers are the key to preventing illegal oil and waste pollution in our oceans. Of the thousands of ships at sea every day, up to 15% will knowingly pollute by ignoring and bypassing regulations. Far away from official oversight and in international waters, the only people who can prevent this from happening are the courageous whistleblowers who report this behavior. Those who are brave enough to draw attention to violations of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (“APPS”) or the MARPOL Protocol can be compensated with up to 50% of the monetary penalties that the United States Government receives from the guilty parties.
Protections for whistleblowers under state law vary widely from state to state. Although many states have recognized common law protections for whistleblowers, under what’s known as the “public policy exception” to the “at-will” doctrine, not all states do and in some states this common law protection may be abridged. Many states have also instituted their own version of the Federal False Claims Act, allowing whistleblowers to file qui tam cases on behalf of the State government and receive awards when they can demonstrate fraud.