In Parts I and Part II of this series, we presented an overview of New York whistleblower protections and what to do if you have been retaliated against. This week, in our concluding article, we explore confidentiality and anonymity protections that apply to some whistleblowers.
A. Is a whistleblower tip confidential?
Some whistleblower programs allow whistleblowers to report confidentially, including the Securities and Exchange Commission whistleblower program, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Whistleblower Program, the Anti-Money Laundering whistleblower program, have express and robust whistleblower confidentiality protections. The IRS also assures whistleblowers that it will maintain their confidentiality.
Unlike these programs, some other whistleblower programs, like the New York State False Claims Act and the Federal False Claims Act, require a whistleblower to file what is known as a qui tam lawsuit in their own name on behalf of the government. These lawsuits are filed under seal, meaning that they are not public at first. Whether and when these lawsuits come out from under seal, and whether and how a whistleblower’s name becomes public, are fact specific questions but in general False Claims Act whistleblowers are not automatically entitled to the same level of confidentiality as some other whistleblowers.
Other government whistleblower hotlines or reporting mechanisms may also allow whistleblowers to report confidentially.
B. Can I report fraud anonymously?
Some whistleblower programs allow anonymous reporting if a whistleblower uses an attorney to submit their tip. The Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Anti-Money Laundering Program all allow whistleblowers to report anonymously if represented by an attorney.
No matter where you are in the whistleblowing process, it may be a good idea to consult with an attorney to advise you on how to balance protecting yourself against retaliation and raising reasonable concerns about misconduct. If you’re thinking about blowing the whistle, an attorney can navigate the process. An attorney may also be able to advise you whether the misconduct you’ve identified is something that might be eligible for an award under the New York False Claims Act, the Federal False Claims Act, the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Programs, the Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Program, the IRS Whistleblower Program, or other reward programs. If you’ve already blown the whistle and have suffered retaliation, an attorney may be able to help you understand your rights and ability to recover under various whistleblower protection laws.