John R. Phillips

Mr. Phillips was a driving force in the passage of the False Claims Act Amendments in 1986, which turned the Civil War law into the heralded fraud-fighting tool we know today. He served as US Ambassador to Italy for four years.

John R. Phillips, a founding partner of Phillips & Cohen (now retired), is a nationally recognized authority on whistleblower cases.

Phillips was called “the nation’s premier whistleblower attorney” by the Wall Street Journal and was recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.”

He also was named several times to Lawdragon’s “500 leading lawyers in America” list, which said, “Influential is the word for Phillips, who in guiding the top qui tam practice in the nation [Phillips & Cohen], has recovered billions under the False Claims Act.”

Mr. Phillips served for four years as the US Ambassador to Italy and the Republic of San Marino after being appointed by President Obama. He retired from the firm in 2013 to accept the ambassadorship appointment, then rejoined in 2017.

Mr. Phillips was a key architect of the modern-day False Claims Act, which gives whistleblowers a way to stop fraud against the government and be rewarded and protected for doing so. He worked closely with Congress to win bipartisan support for the measure.

Shortly after passage of the new law, he started a law firm, which is now Phillips & Cohen, that was the first one devoted exclusively to representing whistleblowers in “qui tam” cases brought under the False Claims Act. He helped build the firm’s practice so that it is now the pre-eminent law firm representing whistleblowers in cases under laws that reward and protect whistleblowers.

Among the numerous, significant whistleblower cases the firm brought during Mr. Phillips’ tenure were two against HCA, a for-profit hospital chain, that were a substantial part of settlements with the government totaling $1.7 billion, and a “qui tam” case against Wall Street billionaire Mario Gabelli and some of his associates that settled for $130 million.

Mr. Phillips is the founder of Taxpayers Against Fraud, a nonprofit, public interest organization that promotes the use whistleblower laws to fight government and corporate fraud, and serves on its board of directors.

He has a long history of involvement in public interest law. He earned his law degree from Berkeley Law (formerly Boalt Hall) at the University of California School of Law, where he was an editor of the California Law Review. He then joined the Los Angeles law firm of O’Melveny & Meyers as an associate.

In 1971, he co-founded the Center for Law in the Public Interest in Los Angeles, which focused on environmental, civil rights, corporate fraud and other issues. He served as its co-director for 17 years before starting his own firm to represent whistleblowers.

From 1988 to 1993, Mr. Phillips was an appointed member of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference. He was appointed in 1997 by President Clinton to the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships and was later appointed chair of the commission by President Obama, a position he held for four years.

In recognition of Mr. Phillips’ work with Congress to revitalize the False Claims Act and his success with qui tam lawsuits, Taxpayers Against Fraud awarded him its first Lifetime Achievement Award. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California also presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award “for his remarkable work rooting out corporate corruption and his landmark agreements on behalf of the poor and the powerless.”

  • “The Whistleblower Complaint,” Legal Talk Network’s Lawyer 2 Lawyer, October 4, 2019.
  • “The legal framework protecting whistleblowers in the U.S.,” PBS News Hour, September 29, 2019.
  • “Trump Branding Whistle-Blower a ‘Spy’ May Fuel Impeachment Probe,” Bloomberg, September 26, 2019.
  • “New Justice Dept. policies, new AG may mute False Claims Act whistleblowers,” Modern Healthcare, February 16, 2019.
  • “False Claims Act Pioneer Returns to Whistleblower Practice,” Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2018.
  • “500 Leading Plaintiff Financial Lawyers” – Lawdragon – 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023
  • “Litigators Hall of Fame” – Lawdragon – 2015
  • 100 Most Influential Lawyers – National Law Journal – 2006
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Taxpayers Against Fraud – 2005
  • “Incentivizing Whistleblowers” –  American Bar Association’s Litigation Journal.
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