A Clarification: Employment

The following note was received from a visitor to the whistleblowerlawyer.com web site:

“When I clicked on the video on your home page, you stressed that one has to be working for a company involved with government contracting. Yet, on the page discussing how one “whistle blows,” you specifically stated that one does not have to be working for a government contractor to blow the whistle. You might want to re-visit that.  Just a suggestion.”

Attorney Murphy’s (the whistleblowerlawyer’s) response:

Thank you for pointing out the discrepancy. As you’ve noted, the confusion arises from the following two sentences:

The video: “one has to be working for a company involved with government contracting.

The web site: “…one does not have to be working for a government contractor.

These two apparently contradictory phrases require clarification.

The overwhelming number of False Claims cases are brought by employees – individuals with inside information who discover that their employer is cheating the Government. But discovering cheaters and blowing the whistle on them is not necessarily limited to employees. So while there always must be a Government contract in order to blow the whistle under the False Claims Act, one does not necessarily have to be employed where the fraud is taking place to blow the whistle. Occasionally, someone who is not an employee uncovers a scheme where a company is cheating the Government, and he or she also is entitled to bring a complaint under the False Claims Act. Here’s an example: When the owner of a small tobacco company was making an effort to sell his company’s products to the military through the U.S. Naval Exchange overseas, he discovered that Philip Morris was charging higher prices on military bases overseas than it was charging civilian customers overseas for the same Marlboro cigarettes. So, although he was not an employee of Philip Morris, nonetheless he became a Relator under the False Claims Act, blowing the whistle on Philip Morris for overcharging the military in its contracts with the Government for all the Marlboros that it sold overseas.

Revisiting the phrases that caused the confusion, one simple modification might make the two phrases consistent.  

The first phrase “one has to be working for a company involved with government contracting” is correct. What it means is this: If you are an employee and you see wrongdoing or fraud, you have to be “working for a company involved with government contracting.”

The second phrase: “one does not have to be working for a government contractor” implies that there doesn’t have to be a Government contract, which is not correct. There does. When one changes the “a” to “the” in the sentence – so that the phrase is modified to now read: “one does not have to be working for the government contractor,” the distinction is made a bit clearer and adds some precision to what Mr. Murphy was trying to say.

One final note: The reason that both the video and the information on the web site stress the absolute necessity for a Government contract is as follows:

There are a broad range of persons who are called whistleblowers – someone who goes to the newspaper with the story that his employer is polluting a river with toxic waste is a whistleblower; someone who learns that a nuclear power facility is leaking radioactive material and reports it to a local television station is a whistlblower, someone who notifies the local law enforcement authorities that his first selectman is taking kickbacks on a garbage removal contract – all fall within the label of ‘whistleblowers.’ But none are covered under the False Claims Act.

The whistle blowers that the whistleblowerlawyer seeks to represent fall within a rather narrow range of whistleblowers who are uncovering fraud in Government contracts. This is the reason that the web site, as well as the video, stress the need for a Government contract. Over the years, since the whistleblower lawyer website has been operating, many of the persons contacting Attorney Murphy have been legitimate whistleblowers, but who themselves do not fall within the narrower range of whistleblowers who are covered under the False Claims Act whom he seeks to represent.

This is the reason that, on the web site, in order for Mr. Murphy to get involved, he emphasizes, over and over again, the absolute requirement that there be a contract with the United States Government.