Whistleblowers Were Never Promised a Rose Garden, But What if They Were?

In October 1970, Lynn Anderson sang her way into country music stardom crooning, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.” Anderson’s cover shot to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 by February 1971 and earned Anderson the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for 1970

For whistleblowers, there may never be Top 100 lists, celebrity status, or a lavish award ceremony with thousands of screaming fans celebrating those who hold contractors accountable for fraudulent conduct. But, there is one thing the United States can do to acknowledge the heroic efforts of the select few who are willing to step forward: whistleblowers should be promised a rose garden, or more specifically, the White House’s Rose Garden. 

For more than three decades, one of the primary drafters of the modern False Claims Act, Sen. Charles Grassley, has been trying to make that happen:  

“I said to a president, ‘You need to do that.’ He said, ‘Well, you know if we did that, we’d have 3,000 whistleblowers coming out of the woodworks.’ That’s exactly why you should do it!” – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

So today we ask, what if that nameless president was right? What if we filled the Rose Garden in a celebration of those who have come forward to shine a light on corporate fraud, and that celebration alone was enough to give 3,000 new whistleblowers the confidence to step forward? 

Since the modern False Claims Act was passed in 1986, there have been 14,595 new qui tam matters brought to the U.S. Department of Justice by whistleblowers. As of Sept. 30, 2021, those matters have brought $48,221,339,535 in settlements and judgements from whistleblower cases, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (and that’s just accounting for federal funds, not the additional moneys that were returned to individual states as a result of the same cases).  

So, to see how a Rose Garden party might work, let’s assume we could use these numbers to set an average whistleblower collection.1 If each of 14,595 matters was brought by one person, that would mean that every whistleblower who has come forward has been responsible for an average of $3,303,963 returned to the United States.2

If that figure held true, and if one Rose Garden party could bring forward 3,000 new whistleblowers, that would mean a potential return of $9,911,889,000. That’s almost $10 billion spurred on by just one party!   

But what if we thought bigger? What if we kept publicly building up and celebrating whistleblowers until we’d encouraged enough people to come forward that we could fill Madison Square Garden instead of the Rose Garden? The 19,812 seats in MSG would be filled with whistleblowers responsible for $65,458,114,956 in settlements and judgments brought back to the United States.   

And then even bigger, until we could fill the Rose Bowl with courageous whistleblowers? If, one day, 90,888 whistleblowers filled the Rose Bowl to celebrate “that it’s the right thing to do to be a whistleblower and point out wrongdoing when wrongdoing violates the law or the money’s being wasted or it’s being fraudulently taken into somebody’s pocket” then the United States could be honoring settlements and judgments totaling $300,290,589,144.3

So, whistleblowers may not have been promised the Rose Garden yet, but there are more than 300 billion reasons why we should take Lynn Anderson’s invitation to “come along and share the good times while we can.” If we keep working towards boldly, loudly and publicly celebrating the unrivaled impact that whistleblowers have in protecting American taxpayers, parties in the Rose Garden will be just the beginning. 

Written by Jillian Estes of Morgan Verkamp with research conducted by Colleen Brugger of Morgan Verkamp. Edited by Kate Scanlan of Keller Grover LLP. Fact checked by Julia-Jeane Lighten of Taxpayers Against Fraud.

1. Of course, there is no actual “average” recovery in a case. Many cases do not result in any collection, while some are very large. This number is calculated for illustrative purposes only, not to imply the expected settlement of any new case.

2. On occasion, new matters are brought by a group of whistleblowers, by a corporation whose members are not public, or by a whistleblower who has previously brought forth another matter. For purposes of this post, we assume each new matter represents one new whistleblower.

3. It would also mean that more than six times as many cases were filed as a result of openly celebrating whistleblowers than were filed in the first thirty-five years of the modern False Claims Act.