Whistleblowers: Rarer Than A Four-Leaf Clover, But Far More Important

Are you considering becoming a whistleblower? If so, you are one of the few and the brave.  It may seem like whistleblowers are very common. After all, they are heroes of popular films such as The Insider, Erin Brockevich, The Informant, The Pelican Brief, and many others. But as popular as whistleblowers are in Hollywood, their actual numbers pale in comparison. 

Whistleblowers are extremely rare, but they are vital to the proper functioning of our democracy and the protection of taxpayers. In the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021, there were only 598 whistleblower lawsuits filed under the federal False Claims Act, the law that protects and rewards whistleblowers for reporting fraud on the federal government.

Those reports, in the form of 598 FCA whistleblower lawsuits, known as “qui tam” actions, revealed numerous fraudulent schemes against the federal government, including Medicare and Medicaid fraud and Department of Defense fraud. But these few whistleblowers can have an outsize impact: in FY 2021, the federal government recovered nearly $1.7 billion in settlements or judgments from cases initiated by whistleblowers. But there was only 1 new qui tam lawsuit filed for every 426,421 adults.

To put the rarity of whistleblowers in perspective, consider that:

  • 17 million people, or 7% of the American population, believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. More than 1000 times as many Americans believe brown cows produce chocolate milk than have filed qui tam suits since the inception of the modern FCA in 1986.
  • In a field of clover, only 1 in 10,000, or 0.1%, will be a four-leaf clover.   Still, if all of the 255 million adults in the United States were a single stem of clover, the four-leaf clovers would outnumber every qui tam whistleblower since 1986 by about 2:1.

With fraud on the government continuing to cheat taxpayers out of their hard-earned money, decide for yourself if we have too many whistleblowers or not nearly enough. 

Written by Regina D. Poserina of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll. Edited by Kate Scanlan of Keller Grover LLP. Fact checked by Julia-Jeane Lighten of Taxpayers Against Fraud.