Our society succeeds when it rewards people in the business world who uncover institutional or corporate wrong-doing that otherwise goes unreported, which can result in wide-spread and serious harm, economic and otherwise.
Our society hemorrhages needlessly when opportunists run to claim the “whistle blower reward” when, after the fact, they take credit for uncovering wrong-doing that they participated in and failed to uncover at the time. (Or maybe someone just learned in some public forum about a scam at his place of business or at a business partner and then claims to be a whistle-blower?)
In between, there’s the person who participated for a little while in wrong-doing, and maybe made a half-hearted hardly audible toot of the whistle that went ignored until later, when, after the matter becomes public from some other source, the formerly timid whistleblower finds her voice and sounds the alarm big time. Would this person qualify for the “whistle blower reward”?
These are some of the excellent puzzles that courts and lawyers get to grapple with.
There is no obvious, right, and clear answer in many cases. In fact, United States Courts of Appeals are split on some aspects of these so-called “qui tam” actions.
If this are of the law interests you, I recommend the recent decision of Sr. U.S. District Court Judge Ortrie D. Smith (W.D. Mo.) detailing challenges to a whistle-blower in the context of Stryker Corporation “pain pump” litigation. (Here is the 74-page complaint.)