Stephen M. Kohn is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading qui tam and whistleblower attorneys. He won the largest ever individual whistleblower reward/qui tam payment for UBS whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld ($104 million reward for Mr. Birkenfeld).
His record of winning whistleblower cases dates back to 1984, and he was peer-review rated by the National Law Journal as one of the 50-top plaintiff’s lawyers in the United States, the only whistleblower rights lawyer to achieve this distinction. His successful advocacy has resulted in landmark precedents in whistleblower and qui tam law.
Kohn helped draft key whistleblower legislation and regulatory rules, including those incorporated into the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Dodd-Frank Act, the IRS Qui Tam whistleblower amendments, and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.
He is the author of the first legal treatise on whistleblowing and is the world’s most published author on whistleblower protection. His most recent book is The New Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself.
In 1988 he helped found the National Whistleblower Center, where is currently serves, pro bono, as Chairman of the Board. Steve Kohn also teaches an annual seminar on Whistleblower Law at the Northeastern University School of Law.
Mr. Kohn’s major contributions to whistleblower law include:
- Obtaining the largest reward ever granted an individual under U.S. whistleblower reward laws and first major award granted under the IRS rewards program ($104 million dollars).
- Chief attorney in Dodd-Frank Act whistleblower case finding restrictive nondisclosure agreements illegal under U.S. securities laws.
- Established key legal precedents under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Dodd-Frank Act and IRS Qui Tam whistleblower reward law, including ensuring that employees who “participated” in fraud were eligible for rewards provided they did not “plan and initiate” those frauds.
- Successfully represented key Swiss banking whistleblowers who triggered the historic prosecutions of Swiss banks (resulting in over $15 billion in sanctions, fines and settlements).
- Leading the National Whistleblower Center’s pro bono campaign to establish qui tam and whistleblower rewards for whistleblowers under the Lacey and Endangered Species Acts.
- Successfully represented first nationally recognized FBI whistleblower, causing President Clinton to order the Attorney General to establish whistleblower protections for all FBI employees.
- Argued case establishing nationwide precedent under the First Amendment recognizing the right of federal employees to publicly blow the whistle on their employing agencies.
- Chief attorney in national precedent-setting cases establishing strict rules prohibiting settlement agreements restricting the right of employees to report safety violations to government regulators.
- Represented whistleblowers in numerous qui tam federal contracting or whistleblower reward cases resulting in billions of dollars in recoveries for the United States.
- Recommended language to strengthen whistleblower protections for corporate employees incorporated into the final Dodd-Frank Act whistleblower reward regulations approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Presented key proposals directly to all five SEC Commissioners that were ultimately incorporated into the final whistleblower-reward rules approved by the Commission.
- Successfully advocated for key reforms protecting federal employees incorporated into the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.
- Represented top FBI laboratory official who “blew the whistle” on forensic misconduct within the FBI crime lab. Disclosures resulted in numerous reforms, including the accreditation of the FBI crime lab, the re-opening and/or review of thousands of criminal cases tainted by fraudulent laboratory procedures and the release of persons improperly convicted of crimes.
Promoting International Qui Tam Whistleblowing
Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto has played an instrumental role in advancing whistleblower rights worldwide. Currently the partners represent whistleblowers from every continent on earth (except Antarctica) in pursing whistleblower reward cases under U.S. laws.
Steve Kohn has been sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to promote whistleblowing on a world-wide scale, including special seminars and programs in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bosnia, Serbia and Thailand. He has given major keynote addresses in Peru and Greece and presented in numerous international conferences and has testified on behalf of whistleblowers before the European Parliament and the Danish Parliament. Mike Kohn has made major international presentations in Poland, South Korea and Israel. The firm filed extensive comments supporting greater whistleblower protections in the now-approved European Directive on Whistleblowing.
Whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn and partners of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto regularly advise congress on crafting whistleblower laws. And play an instrumental role in drafting whistleblower protection laws, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, and the Dodd-Frank Act.
SEC & IRS Rulemaking
During the Dodd-Frank rulemaking process, our partners worked closely with the SEC to create an effective whistleblower program. Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto’s partners met personally with each of the five SEC Commissioners. They presented them with detailed reports and proposals setting forth rules that were essential to make the law work for Dodd-Frank whistleblowers as intended by Congress. Furthermore, Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto’s whistleblower attorneys seek to protect and enhance legal protections for tax fraud whistleblowers. Our firm has filed numerous internal revenue service rulemaking petitions, filed extensive briefs to the IRS and testified at IRS rulemaking hearsing to strengthen the tax whistleblower program.
- August 23, 2010: Presentation to Representatives from the Office of the Chairman
- January 31, 2011: Presentation to the Staff of the SEC Division of Enforcement
- February 10, 2011: Presentation to SEC Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar
- February 11, 2011: Presentation to SEC Commissioner Troy A. Paredes
- March 11, 2011: Presentation to SEC Commissioner Kathleen L. Casey
- March 16, 2011: Presentation to SEC Commissioner Elisse B. Walter
- March 28, 2011: Presentation to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro
In recognition of the growing importance of whistleblower litigation, The National Law Journal named the whistleblower attorney and advocacy law firm of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto as one of top fifty plaintiff’s law firms in the United States. The firm’s partners were officially named as among “America’s Elite Trial Lawyers.” In its September 29, 2014 article, “Elite Trial Lawyers: The 50 Leading Plaintiff’s Firms in America,” the National Law Journal named Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto as one of the firm’s “doing the most creative and most important work in the courtroom.”
Lawdragon 500 Leading Plantiff Financial Lawyer
Lawdragon 500 Leading Plantiff Financial Lawyer
Legal Leaders: Top Rated Lawyers 2019
Trust! Top Thought Leaders in Trust: Lifetime Achievement Award (2019)
Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, Marquis Who’s Who
Whistleblower Law Firm of the Year, Lawyer International
Whistleblower Law Firm of the Year in Washington DC, Global Law Experts Awards
Who’s Who in the East, Marquis Who’s Who
White Collar Crime Trailblazers, National Law Journal
A-V Preeminent, Martindale-Hubbell
America’s Elite Employment Trial Lawyers Finalist, National Law Journal
“Elite Trial Lawyers” Designation, National Law Journal
America’s Most Honored Professionals, American Registry
100 Most Influential in Business Ethics, Ethisphere Magazine
Capital Gains, Bloomberg-TV
Top Attorneys, Washington DC Super Lawyers
Super Lawyer Designation, Super Lawyers
Friend of the IEEE Award
1992-1995, 2005-2010, 2012, 2015-2016
Who’s Who in American Law, Marquis Who’s Who
Who’s Who in America
2007, 2009, 2011-2014
Washington’s Top Lawyers, Washingtonian Magazine
Who’s Who in the World, Marquis Who’s Who
Daynard Public Interest Fellow, School of Law, Northeastern University
“Hot List” of Plantiff’s Law Firms, National Law Journal
New York Times, Editorial, “Helping Whistleblowers Survive”
Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities
ABC World News Tonight, BBC World News Tonight, BBC, “Burden of Proof” on CNN, “Capital Gains” on Bloomberg TV, CBS Evening News, CNN World News, “Crosstalk” on MSNBC, CSNBC, “The Early Show” on CBS, “Good Morning America” on ABC, “The Jack Ford Show” on MSNBC, “Hannity & Colmes” on FOXNEWS, “Hardball” on MSNBC, “The Johnnie Cochran Show” on Court-TV, “Larry King Live” on CNN, “Miller’s Law” on Court-TV, NBC Nightly News, “Nightline” on ABC, “The O’Reilly Factor” on FOXNEWS, “Primetime Live” on ABC, “Rivera Live” on MSNBC, “The Today Show” on NBC, “Close-Up” on C-SPAN, “60 Minutes” on CBS, “Washington Journal,” “HuffPost Live” and on CSPAN.
Belgrade, Serbia (October 27-28, 2016): Anti-Corruption Conference “For Every Truth There Is a Source: Protecting Whistleblowers and Journalistic Sources,” hosted by the Serbian whistleblower advocacy group Pištaljkaa (The Whistle), and sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Information:
- Journalism and Whistleblowers: Threats and Opportunities (Panelist)
- Whistleblowing, Justice, and Journalism: The Way Forward (Panelist)
Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (May 26, 2015): Presentation sponsored by Luna-Centre for Responsible Democracy and the American Chamber of Commerce in Bosnia-Herzegovina with the support of the U.S. Embassy International Speakers Program.
- Conducted seminar as part of Sarajevo Whistleblower Week: “Breakthrough in Protecting International Whistleblowers: Non-United States Citizens Now Entitled to Whistleblower Protections and Rewards.”
Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (March 3-8, 2012): Presentations sponsored by U.S. Embassy:
- Public Presentation: “The Fight Against Corruption and the Role of the Citizen, the Role of the Whistleblower”
- Participation in the Founding Assembly of “Uzbunjivaci protiv korupcije,” a Bosnian anti-corruption and whistleblower advocacy organization
- Presentation and meeting with the Chairwoman of the House of Parliament for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Presentation and meeting with Assistant Minster of Justice
- Public Lecture, Faculty of Criminal Justice
- Presentation and meeting with President of State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Presentation and meeting with the Director of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption
- Round Table private discussion and presentation with U.S. Ambassador, Members of Parliament and leadership of anti-corruption organizations
- Presentation to Staff of U.S. Embassy
- Presentation and meeting with head of anti-corruption committee for the Republika Srpska Parliament
Republic of Serbia (July 10-15, 2011): Presentations sponsored by the U.S. Embassy:
- Presentation and Meeting with Commission for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Projection
- Presentation and meeting with President of Anti-Corruption Council
- Presentation and meeting with Association of Serbian Judges
- Presentation and meeting with Anticorruption Agency
- Presentation and meeting with Prosecutor General’s Office
- Presentation before journalist and NGO workshop
- Presentation before Round Table sponsored by “The Whistle” newspaper
Republic of Montenegro (September 12-19, 2009). Presentations sponsored by the U.S. Embassy:
- Presentation and Meeting with Director, Anti-Corruption Agency
- Presentation and Meeting with Assistant Minister of Interior
- Presentation and Meeting with Minister for EU Integration
- Presentation and Meeting with Judges and Prosecutors
- Presentation before the Public Procurement Commission
- Presentation at the Law Faculty
- Public Address before the Witness Protection Seminar
Prague, Czech Republic: European Union Whistleblower Protection Project. International Roundtable (July 8-9, 2009). Presentation sponsored by U.S. Department of State. Republic of Hungary (2008): Presentations sponsored by U.S. Embassy:
- Private meeting and presentation with Minister of Justice
- Private meeting and presentation with Minister for European Integration
- Formal Presentation to inter-cabinet Anti-Corruption Commission
- Private meeting and presentation to Members of Parliament from four major political parties
- Private meeting and presentation to leading newspaper editors and publishers
- Public presentation before leading representatives of anti-corruption NGOs
- Public presentation before the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary