The First American Whistleblowers

Being a whistleblower isn’t a new invention. To speak out against fraud is an American tradition. In fact, Congress passed the first American whistleblower laws when two soldiers took a stand against British army practices.

Setting the Stage for the First Whistleblower Law

Months after the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1777, an American warship named Warren resided outside Providence, Rhode Island. Ten brave revolutionary sailors and marines met onboard to discuss practices of the commander of the Continental Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins. Hopkins was a powerful man. His own brother was the governor of the first state they were in and also a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

However, they could not let his horrible war crimes continue. The soldiers discussed the inhuman and barbarous treatment of the prisons. In fact, John Grannis, a marine captain, presented a petition to the Continental Congress to suspend Hopkins from his post.

Retaliation

When Hopkins learned of the petition, he immediately retaliated against the sailors. Not only did he dismiss them all from the Navy, but he also filed a criminal libel suit in Rhode Island against the whistle-blowers. In fact, he even jailed Samuel Shaw, a midshipman, and Richard Marven, a third lieutenant. They petitioned the Congress and pleased that they were arrested for doing what they then believed and still believe was nothing but their duty.

Congress Passes First Whistleblower Law

Without any dissent, Congress enacted America’s first whistleblower-protection law. They said:

 “That it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or any other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.”

However, they did not want any courageous whistleblower to worry about the financial ramifications of coming forward. So, they gave the marine whistleblowers money to pay their legal fees against the libel suit. Additionally, they authorized the full release of all records related to the removal of Hopkins. There was no attempt to hide the fact that whistle-blowers had accused a Navy commander of mistreating prisoners.

Armed with Congress’s support, the whistleblowers put on a strong defense and won their case in court. Then on May 22, 1979, Congress provided $1,418 to cover costs associated with the whistle-blowers’ defense.

Modern Whistleblower Law

fraudDuring the more than two centuries that followed, Congress has adapted that first whistleblower law into the one we know today. In doing so, they have protected thousands of whistleblowers from retaliation while recovering billions in taxpayer dollars. Then, in 1986, Congress modernized the Whistleblower statute and renamed it to the False Claims Act (FCA). It became the government’s primary tool to combat fraud. Individuals who report government-program fraud bring the lawsuit on behalf of the government.

The Law Protects and Rewards  Whistleblowers

When a knowledgeable attorney like those found at The Michael Brady Lynch Firm files a False Claims Act lawsuit, he or she files it under a seal. This means it is completely confidential. There is also a full disclosure statement in the suit, which details the evidence collected by a whistleblower.

After we file your suit, the Department of Justice will review the evidence before deciding to step in and decide if they want to prosecute the case. The government’s fraud investigator will work closely with you, the whistleblower to identify all responsible for the fraud.

You could be entitled to 15-30% of the funds recovered. In order to receive the reward, you must be the first one to file a case under the False Claims Act. This is why it is key to pick an experienced attorney to work quickly to get your compensation.

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