DOJ to Launch Whistleblower Award Program

False Claims Act

On March 7, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will be rolling out a whistleblower award program this year.

“We’re planning something new: a DOJ-run whistleblower rewards program,” Monaco announced in a speech at American Bar Association’s 39th National Institute on White Collar Crime. “The premise is simple: 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.”

The Attorney General is currently authorized to pay monetary awards to individuals who provide information or assistance leading to civil or criminal forfeitures but the DOJ has never had an official program to award whistleblowers.

Monaco pointed to the success of other whistleblower award programs “which have proven indispensable” and said that the DOJ’s program will cover violations currently not covered under those programs.

“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,” Monaco stated.

“This is a good first step, but the Justice Department has miles to go in creating a whistleblower program competitive with the programs managed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC),” said Stephen M. Kohn, a leading whistleblower attorney at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto.

“We hope that the DOJ will follow the lead of the SEC and CFTC and establish a central Whistleblower Office that can accept anonymous and confidential complaints. Such a program has been required under the anti-money laundering whistleblower law for over three years, but Justice has simply failed to follow the law,” added Kohn, who also serves as Chairman of the Board of the National Whistleblower Center.

According to Monaco, the DOJ will announce the particulars of the program in the coming months but certain already decided-upon aspects include that the DOJ will only offer awards to individuals who were not involved in the criminal activity itself and who provide original information not known to the government that is not covered under an existing whistleblower award program.

“The Justice Department’s decision to exclude persons who may have had some involvement in the criminal activity is a step backwards and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding as to why the Dodd-Frank and False Claims Acts work so well,” said Kohn. “When the False Claims Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 it was widely understood that the award laws worked best when they induced persons who were part of the conspiracy to turn in their former associates in crime. Justice needs to understand that by failing to follow the basic tenants of the most successful whistleblower laws ever enacted, their program is starting off on the wrong foot.”

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