Whistleblowers Saved the Government $3.3 Billion Last Year
by Gavin Baker, 12/6/2012
Whistleblowers helped the federal government recover at least $3.3 billion in fiscal year 2012, a record high, according to a Dec. 4 announcement by the Justice Department.
The funds were recovered by whistleblower lawsuits under the False Claims Act. That law allows individuals to report fraud against the federal government – and, if their claims are proven, to receive a share of the money that is recovered. Whistleblowers received $439 million in such awards in 2012 for reporting problems like these:
- Mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses by Bank of America, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, and Ally Financial
- Inflated shipping costs by Maersk Line for cargo transportation to Iraq and Afghanistan
- Overcharging by software provider Oracle
Overall, in 2012, the Justice Department won a record $4.9 billion in cases involving fraud against the government, including the $3.3 billion from whistleblower cases. In other words, more than half the money recovered last year was directly attributable to information from whistleblowers.
In addition, more people than ever are blowing the whistle. A record 647 lawsuits were filed by whistleblowers last year.
These figures give a sense of how important whistleblowing, and transparency generally, is to maintaining an efficient, effective government. In fact, lawsuits under the False Claims Act represent only a fraction of disclosures by whistleblowers, which are more often made to authorities within the executive branch. Congress and the president recently expanded protections for whistleblowers, including those in the intelligence community, and the Senate approved an amendment to the defense authorization bill to extend whistleblower protections to employees of federal contractors and grantees.
The more robust our transparency and oversight systems are, the better they will be at catching those who defraud the public – and at deterring fraud from occurring in the first place.