DOJ To Launch New Whistleblower Reward Program in 2024 - Federal Lawyer
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DOJ To Launch New Whistleblower Reward Program in 2024

whistleblower definition

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that it plans to launch a new whistleblower reward program in 2024. The pilot program, which does not yet have a definitive start date, is intended to supplement the DOJ’s existing whistleblower reward program under the False Claims Act (FCA), while placing particular emphasis on corporate fraud and cross-border corruption under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

The DOJ is one of a handful of federal agencies that administer whistleblower reward programs. Along with the DOJ, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) administer whistleblower programs under the Dodd-Frank Act, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) compensate whistleblowers who come forward with information about tax evasion, tax fraud, and other financial crimes. Crucially, all of these existing programs require that a whistleblower come forward with “original information” that the investigating agency can use to initiate a law enforcement investigation. The DOJ’s pilot program will pay compensation awards to whistleblowers in additional circumstances.

DOJ: “Now, Whistleblowing Can Take Many Forms”

Deputy Attorney General (AG) Lisa Monaco announced the DOJ’s new whistleblower reward program during her keynote remarks at the American Bar Association’s 39th National Institute on White Collar Crime. During her remarks Deputy AG Monaco highlighted the benefits of the federal government’s existing whistleblower compensation programs, but also acknowledged their limitations, stating:

“Ever since Dodd-Frank created whistleblower programs at the SEC and the CFTC, those agencies have received thousands of tips, paid out many hundreds of millions of dollars, and disgorged billions in ill-gotten gains from corporate bad actors.

Yet both programs, and similar ones at IRS and FinCEN — by their very nature — are limited in scope. They only cover misconduct within their agencies’ jurisdictions. And qui tam actions, which offer their own whistleblowing incentives, are only available for fraud against the government.”

As Deputy AG Monaco went on to explain, while the government’s existing whistleblower programs have proven “indispensable” to the government’s ongoing fight against fraud, waste, and abuse (FWA), “[t]hey simply don’t address the full range of corporate and financial misconduct that the Department prosecutes.”

The DOJ intends to “fill these gaps” with its new whistleblower reward program.

The DOJ’s program, which Deputy AG Monaco described as a “pilot program,” will expand on the federal government’s existing whistleblower compensation programs in two significant ways. Whistleblowers who participate during the pilot period will be entitled to rewards in circumstances not previously covered; and, if the DOJ formally implements the program after the pilot phase, it will significantly increase the number of circumstances in which individuals who have information about corporate FWA can come forward, receive protection, and potentially receive financial compensation for their efforts.

The ways in which the DOJ’s new whistleblower reward program will expand on the existing whistleblower compensation programs are:

1. Whistleblowers Can Receive Compensation for Reporting Any Information Unknown To the DOJ

Under the existing federal whistleblower programs, individuals who report FWA or other forms of wrongdoing must generally meet two criteria in order to qualify for protected whistleblower status. To qualify as a whistleblower, individuals must presently report information that is both:

  • “Original information,” meaning that the individual is the first to come forward with information that is unknown to the federal government; and,
  • Sufficient to warrant the initiation of a federal law enforcement investigation.

There are some exceptions to the “original information” requirement, and individuals must meet certain additional criteria in order to qualify as whistleblowers as well (i.e., protections and compensation generally are not available to individuals who are obligated to report FWA as a result of their employment position). But, these are the two basic criteria that pretty much apply across the board.

Under the DOJ’s pilot program, however, the second of these basic criteria does not apply. As explained by Deputy AG Monaco, “if an individual helps DOJ discover significant corporate or financial misconduct — otherwise unknown to us — then the individual could qualify to receive a portion of the resulting forfeiture.”

2. Whistleblowers Can Receive Compensation for Reporting Corporate or Financial Misconduct Beyond Violations of the False Claims Act

Currently, the DOJ only rewards whistleblowers who come forward with information about violations of the False Claims Act. Under the FCA’s qui tam provisions, whistleblowers who report information about FWA affecting federal government contracts, grants, and programs can receive between 10 and 30 percent of any amount the government recovers based on the information they provide.

The DOJ’s pilot program expands on the types of information that whistleblowers can provide. While the DOJ will accept “information about violations of any federal law,” Deputy AG Monaco stated that the DOJ is “especially interested” in whistleblower reports concerning:

  • “Criminal abuses of the U.S. financial system;
  • “Foreign corruption cases outside the jurisdiction of the SEC, including FCPA violations by non-issuers and violations of the recently enacted Foreign Extortion Prevention Act; and
  • “Domestic corruption cases, especially involving illegal corporate payments to government officials.”

This is specifically intended to “fill gaps” in the current whistleblower landscape and the federal government’s ability to target these crimes effectively—particularly with regard to enforcement under the FCPA. Deputy AG Monaco also stated that the pilot program is based on the DOJ’s general authorization to issue rewards to individuals who provide assistance that leads to civil or criminal forfeitures—which expands far beyond the DOJ’s enforcement of the FCA.

When Whistleblowers Will Be Entitled to Rewards Under the DOJ’s Pilot Program

In her keynote remarks, Deputy AG Monaco identified four basic eligibility criteria for receiving a whistleblower reward under the DOJ’s pilot program. Under the program, a whistleblower reward will be available:

  • “Only after all victims have been properly compensated;
  • “Only to those who submit truthful information not already known to the government;
  • “Only to those not involved in the criminal activity itself;
  • “And only in cases where there isn’t an existing financial disclosure incentive — including qui tam or another federal whistleblower program.”

Deputy AG Monaco also stated that the DOJ will be establishing additional guidelines for the program before its official launch. Among other things, we expect that these additional guidelines will include specific requirements for submitting information to the DOJ under the program. We also expect that the DOJ’s pilot program will mirror existing whistleblower programs in many respects, including protecting whistleblowers’ identities and prohibiting retaliation against whistleblowers.

What You Should Know if You Are Thinking About Blowing the Whistle with the DOJ

With all of this in mind, what should you know if you are thinking about blowing the whistle with the DOJ in 2024 (or beyond)? Here are five key facts for prospective federal whistleblowers from the whistleblower lawyers at Oberheiden P.C.:

1. Whistleblowers Can Already Report Corporate Fraud and Other Wrongdoing Under Existing Federal Statutes and Regulations

While the DOJ’s pilot whistleblower program is intended to expand the types of corporate fraud and other wrongdoing that whistleblowers can report and become eligible to receive rewards, the existing whistleblower statutes and regulations are already quite broad. Whistleblowers can report numerous forms of fraud, waste, abuse, and other wrongdoing to the DOJ and other federal agencies under the programs that exist today.

2. Several Existing Federal Whistleblower Programs Provide Financial Rewards to Eligible Whistleblowers

While not all federal whistleblower programs offer compensation programs, several do. These include the DOJ’s existing qui tam whistleblower program as well as the programs administered by the CFTC, FinCEN, IRS, and SEC.

3. If You Are Thinking About Blowing the Whistle, You Should Consult with a Lawyer Promptly

If you are thinking about blowing the whistle, you should not wait for the DOJ’s pilot program to take effect. As discussed above, whistleblowers must generally be the first to come forward under the existing whistleblower programs, and waiting to report corporate fraud or other wrongdoing could lead to additional consumer or investor losses.

4. Hiring a Federal Whistleblower Lawyer Costs Nothing Out of Pocket

You can hire a federal whistleblower lawyer at no out-of-pocket cost. At Oberheiden P.C., we do not charge anything for helping prospective whistleblowers decide whether to come forward. If you decide to come forward, our legal fees, if any, will generally be calculated as a percentage of your whistleblower award.

5. Coming Forward to Expose Corporate Fraud or Other Wrongdoing is the Right Thing to Do

As Deputy AG Monaco makes clear in her keynote remarks, coming forward with information about fraud or other wrongdoing is the right thing to do. Corporate wrongdoers need to be held accountable, and the DOJ and its law enforcement partners rely heavily on whistleblowers to help them determine where and when investigations and charges are warranted.

Speak with a Federal Whistleblower Lawyer at Oberheiden P.C. in Confidence

If you would like more information about serving as a federal whistleblower with the DOJ (or any other federal agency), we strongly encourage you to get in touch. We represent federal whistleblowers nationwide. To schedule a free and strictly confidential consultation with a senior federal whistleblower lawyer at Oberheiden P.C., please call 888-680-1745 or tell us how we can contact you online today.

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