Whistleblower News & Articles
April 29, 2021
As we recently shared, WLC member Suzanne Durrell spoke at the 25th Annual Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) Compliance Institute. Her panel was titled “Whistleblowers: Who are They and Why do they Become Whistleblowers and How Do You Evaluate a Whistleblower Case?” In our last post about this talk we didn’t get much into the substance of the discussion. Today we wanted to share some fo the panel’s thoughts on best practices for successful compliance culture.
The panelists stressed that an organization should have the right compliance culture. This includes a strong, respected compliance department with authority and proper reporting channels. This requires both that the compliance professional report to a high-level executive, the board, and/or an audit committee within the company, and that there are clear unobstructed channels for an employee’s concerns to reach the compliance professional. Together, these assure that employees’ concerns reach compliance rather than business managers or human resources, and that the compliance professional is able to elevate issues to the proper decision makers at the company.
Either way best practices start with listening to the employee. Then documenting what he/she is telling you, investigating their concerns, and keeping them informed of the process. Unfortunately, too often employees are ignored or not taken seriously. Worse yet they can be intimidated, retaliated against, and even fired for doing what they thought they were supposed to do: speak up to protect the company and uphold the law.
Employees facing this dilemma within the company frequently find someone outside the company who will listen: a whistleblower lawyer. That lawyer can help the employee evaluate all their options, analyze the merits of their concerns, and counsel the employee in deciding whether to file an FCA or SEC whistleblower complaint against the company.
The importance of a successful compliance program has been recognized by the Department of Justice , and by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services through guidance, and Corporate Integrity Agreements. As whistleblower attorneys, we appreciate the unique challenges compliance professionals face, and are committed to doing our part to help them succeed. To that end, we periodically participate in events focused on how companies can maintain effective compliance programs, ones that prevent fraud against the government and retaliation against whistleblowers.
Our firm is dedicated to protecting employees from retaliation and preventing fraud from happening. The vast majority of our clients have raised concerns and tried to rectify problems internally with the company before coming to us for advice. Some of these companies lacked a robust compliance program (this can happen especially with startups and small companies). In other companies the compliance program had been marginalized and rendered ineffective within the organization. And sometimes the company was under a Corporate Integrity Agreement with HHS-OIG but the employee was ignored or worse, the employee was fired or otherwise retaliated against. Eventually, these companies often find themselves the subject of a False Claims Act investigation by the Department of Justice after the employee turned whistleblower files a complaint for fraud against the government and retaliation against the employee.