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Whistleblowing, Pt. 2: Jill’s Story

I’ve written before about how it pays to do the right thing. For employees who become aware of fraud perpetrated by their own companies, that payment can take the form of huge monetary rewards from the government.The US federal government and many state governments have set up incentivized whistleblower programs that in some cases will pay large sums of money to individuals for reporting the fraudulent behavior committed by their employers.For Jill Osiecki, a sales representative for the American biopharmaceutical company Amgen, it took over a decade of witnessing numerous illegal activities committed by both individuals and the management at her company before she decided to take action. Jill had even taken part in some of Amgen’s schemes, when she was asked to promote certain drugs contrary to their FDA approved use.Jill reported Amgen’s illegal behavior to the company’s internal compliance department, in the hopes of correcting the widespread off-label promotion, illegal kickbacks to doctors and health clinics, and other fraud. Instead she was fired from Amgen for bringing these schemes to their attention.Fortunately Jill had protected herself by collecting evidence of the company’s fraud for the federal government, and after her dismissal she was able to make a false claims case.The False Claims Act is the oldest and most effective whistleblower law in the US. It allowed Jill to bring a lawsuit against Amgen on behalf of herself and the federal government. The only work required of Jill was providing the necessary evidence of Amgen’s fraud. The government then took over the case and prosecuted Amgen.Under the False Claims Act, the whistleblower is entitled to 15%-25% of the government’s settlement. In Jill’s case against Amgen, the government settled for $762 million. Needless to say, Jill was handsomely rewarded for taking action.Large corporations like Amgen that commit such widespread fraud can cost the government billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses. The False Claims Act and other whistleblower laws exist to incentivize integrity, and to get ethical employees and the federal government behind the same cause.Jill’s experience with the False Claims Act should serve as a reminder to never let the fear of punishment or ostracization keep you from doing the right thing.Sources: “Ten Questions with Whistleblower Jill Osiecki,” Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund.