Did you know that July 30 was the first-ever Whistleblower Appreciation Day in the United States? So says the U.S. Senate, which passed a bipartisan resolution making it so last month.
As part of the day’s celebration (what, no fireworks?), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced he is working on legislation that would amend the False Claims Act (FCA) in a way he says would strengthen the law’s core purpose of helping whistleblowers shine the light on wrongdoing and fraud. One amendment would offer guaranteed whistleblower protections to law enforcement officers who report civil rights violations. Another would force the Department of Justice (DOJ) to state its reasons when it declines to prosecute a whistleblower’s claim.
In a July 30 speech before the Senate, Grassley said he would propose legislation to amend the FCA so it will “will provide timely, critical protections to whistleblowers working in our nation’s law enforcement agencies.”
“I’m working to ensure that law enforcement whistleblowers who report violations of the Constitutional rights of American citizens to Congress and the Justice Department are guaranteed whistleblower protections,” he said.
He said the bill would also require the DOJ to state its reasons for declining to prosecute a whistleblower claim.
“If there are serious allegations of fraud against the government, the Attorney General should have to state the legitimate reasons for deciding not to pursue them in court,” he said.
The bill “clarifies ambiguities created by the courts and reins in this practice that undermines the purpose of my 1986 amendments to the False Claims Act, which was to empower whistleblowers. And it requires the Justice Department to state its reasons and provide whistleblowers who bring the cases an opportunity to be heard whenever it decides to drop a False Claims Act case,” Grassley said.
Grassley reported progress on two other FCA- and whistleblower-related bills.
The Whistleblower Programs Improvement Act, which Grassley introduced last year, strengthens protections from retaliation for whistleblowers and would require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) “to make timely decisions regarding whistleblower rewards.”
The SEC portion of the bill is currently under consideration by the Senate Banking Committee, and it has the support of the SEC, Grassley said.
Another pending bill, the Criminal Anti-Trust Anti-Retaliation Act, would “strengthen protections for private sector whistleblowers who report violations of anti-trust laws,” Grassley said. The bill was passed by the Senate last October. However, it was also passed by the Senate three other times, dating back to 2013. It has yet to be taken up in the House.
“Each of these bills fills a critical void in our current whistleblower laws, and each one ought to receive consideration and an up or down vote before the end of this Congress,” Grassley said.