Ensuring that the forests, oceans, rivers, and other natural spaces can be enjoyed by our children and their children beyond them is one of the most sacred acts that we can engage in as a society. However, all too often delicate ecosystems or environments are damaged by corporate greed, unscrupulous individuals, or shortsighted collective actions. The environment that was entrusted to our care by previous generations often needs a good lawyer to speak up in its defense.
The False Claims Act, a powerful law aimed at combatting waste and misappropriation of government funds, can also be used to target companies that renege on their promises to protect or maintain the environment. Companies that receive government funds can be held accountable via the False Claims Act for falsely claiming compliance with EPA protections, as well as other federal and state environmental laws. Overseen by the newly created Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), whistleblowers have more tools than ever before to help combat environmental regulation violations.
If you have information about environmental fraud involving a government contractor, you may be eligible to become a whistleblower. Whistleblowers can help protect sensitive ecosystems by helping to ensure that taxpayer money is spent on protecting the environment that we all share. They can also receive significant financial awards in the event of a successful recoupment of government funds.
If you have unreleased or unreported information about environmental fraud, do not wait. Contact the environmental fraud whistleblower lawyers at Tycko & Zavareei LLP for a confidential, complimentary case evaluation.
Common Kinds of Environmental Fraud
Violation or breach of government contracts is reportable under the False Claims Act. Companies that contract with the government in order to undertake certain environmental projects, such as clean-up projects or protection of endangered species or habitats, infrastructure projects, and more must meet certain baseline standards. Some common examples of environmental fraud include, but are by no means limited to:
- Misrepresenting compliance with environmental standards and laws
- Using subpar materials or execution methods than promised in contracts, especially those that harm the environment
- Not accomplishing project goals or grant objectives
- Overstating the difficulty of the project, or the amount of time it will require to complete
- Cutting corners on project completion
- Misappropriating project funds
- Trafficking protected animals and plants
- Wrongly extracting national resources
- Avoiding fines and financial penalties by misreporting project environmental standards
- Avoidance of environmental penalty payments
Whistleblower Laws and Environmental Fraud
There are several legislative routes that protect both whistleblowers and the environment. Many state and federal laws are designed to hold companies accountable while preserving the natural world around us. If you have questions, a qualified environmental fraud whistleblower attorney can help advise you on what areas of the law may be applicable to your case.
Federal False Claims Act
The False Claims Act helps combat numerous types of fraud committed against the federal government, including false claims relating to healthcare, government contracts, government grants, environmental fraud, and more.
The False Claims Act is particularly powerful because of how broadly it was written. In today’s incarnation, the legislation states that anyone caught knowingly making false claims to the government can be held liable for up to three times the government’s damages, as well as ordered to pay individual financial penalties for each false claim. The amount for these individual penalties is linked to inflation rates.
Whistleblowers who come forward with information are protected under the False Claims Act against retaliation by their employers. They are also eligible to receive up to 30% of the government’s total reward in successful cases. This is known as qui tam law, where a whistleblower or “relator” brings a case on behalf of the government entity.
State False Claims Acts
Many states, including California and New York, have passed False Claims Acts that are as powerful as the federal version. For example, in California, municipalities that contract with companies or individuals and offer up funding are protected with the full power of the state’s False Claims law. This ensures that the many beautiful areas of California’s natural world can be protected on local levels, even if federal funding was never involved.
Endangered Species Act
Passed in 1973, the Endangered Species Act is a far-reaching piece of legislation that protects threatened as well as endangered plants, animals, environments, and species. The statute also includes a whistleblower provision that offers financial incentives to those who report attempts to violate the act. Violations of the Endangered Species Act include the import, export, possession, sale, delivery, or transport of any species of endangered fish or wildlife.
The Lacey Act
The Lacey Act predates the Endangered Species Act. Passed in 1900, it was the first federal law to protect wildlife. The law bans the trafficking of fish, wildlife, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, or sold. The Lacey Act might be invoked to prevent illegally sourced wood or paper products and to protect certain forests or wildlife. The Lacey Act has a long history of successful implementation against lumber companies, essential oil distributors, musical instrument and paper manufacturers, as well as illegally imported goods made from protected forests worldwide.
Other Species-Specific Environmental Whistleblower Acts
There are more than 40 laws that currently involve whistleblower protections and financial incentives to report environmental fraud. A short list involves many specific kinds of environmental protections and legislation, such as:
- African Elephant Conservation Act
- Airborne Hunting Act
- Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
- Marine Mammal Protection Act
- Migratory Bird Acts
- National Wildlife Refuge System
- American Fisheries Act
- Dolphin Protection Act
- Fisherman’s Protective Act
- Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act
- High Seas Fishing Compliance Act
- Sustainable Fisheries Act
- Whaling Convention Act
- Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act
- Wild Bird Conservation Act
- Antarctic Conservation Act
- Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act
Whistleblower Protections and Environmental Fraud
There are many individual pieces of legislation that offer protection to whistleblowers who speak up about fraud. Environmental fraud whistleblowers are particularly protected under a broad variety of statutes. Some environmental protection laws that include whistleblower protection statutes include:
- Clean Water Act (CWA)
- Clean Air Act (CAA)
- Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)
- Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)
- Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA)
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
Prohibited kinds of retaliation may include:
- Harassment or threats
- Reduction of pay or hours related to a protected disclosure
Even employees who have signed certain non-disclosure agreements or who are employed by federal agencies, contractors, and subcontractors are protected by environmental whistleblower standards. If you are an employee of an EPA contractor and believe you have been retaliated against for speaking up about environmental concerns, you have the right to make a complaint to the Environmental Protection Agency Office of the Inspector General hotline. You may also benefit from speaking to a qualified environmental fraud whistleblower lawyer to find out if you are entitled to backpay, missing wages, or any other kind of whistleblower protection.
Contact an Environmental Fraud Whistleblower Lawyer Today
Tycko & Zavareei LLP is an elite team of attorneys dedicated to pursuing justice and ensuring that whistleblowers are protected for their bravery in speaking up. Our experts have won millions on behalf of whistleblowers in diverse cases of healthcare fraud, pharmaceutical and laboratory misdeeds, tax fraud, and more. Let us bring our qui tam expertise to one of the causes that matters the most: protecting the natural world around us, and ensuring that taxpayer funds are used to uphold environmental protections and statutes.
If you have information that has not been previously reported or released about environmental fraud, you may have a case. Speak up today by contacting the law team of Tycko & Zavareei LLP. We can help you navigate the federal and state legal requirements in filing a qui tam environmental fraud case, as well as ensure that your rights and privileges as a whistleblower are protected throughout. Contact us via phone or online for a complimentary confidential case evaluation.