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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. Now retired from the firm, he recently served as US Ambassador to Italy.

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

Before he retired from the firm in 2013 to accept President Obama’s appointment as the US ambassador to Italy, the Wall Street Journal and the National Law Journal called him “the nation’s premier whistleblower attorney.”

The National Law Journal included Mr. Phillips in its “100 most influential lawyers in America” lists, comprised of attorneys who “have the power to shape public affairs, launch industries, shake things up and get things done.” 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 worked closely with Congress to revise and strengthen the False Claims Act based on his research that showed the Civil War law held great potential for fighting fraud against the government. After the law was enacted in 1986, he devoted his professional career to representing whistleblowers in qui tam lawsuits until his appointment as ambassador.

In recognition of Mr. Phillips’ work with Congress to revitalize the False Claims Act and his success with qui tam lawsuits, the nonprofit group, 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.”

Mr. Phillips 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 in 1988.

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. President Obama appointed Mr. Phillips chair of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships in 2009. He retired from Phillips & Cohen LLP in 2013.

Mr. Phillips is the founder of Taxpayers Against Fraud (TAF), a nonprofit, public interest organization that promotes the use whistleblower laws to fight significant fraud. He served on TAF’s board of directors from its founding to 2013.

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