Phillips & Cohen’s expertise with whistleblower cases is well recognized in the media. The firm’s attorneys have represented whistleblowers in qui tam cases since the False Claims Act was enacted in 1986. Phillips & Cohen now has many whistleblower clients with claims made through the Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission whistleblower reward programs.
The following excerpts are from news stories prior to 2013 where Phillips & Cohen attorneys have been quoted about whistleblower programs and issues. For more recent stories, please see Phillips & Cohen in the News – Experts on Whistleblower Cases.
“Rajat’s moment of truth – ex-Goldman Sachs honcho awaits sentencing,” The Pioneer (India), 10/25/12.
But the proposal for leniency for Gupta is not without its critics. Writing in Forbes magazine, Erika Kelton, a partner at Phillips & Cohen, the well-known law firm representing whistleblowers, argues that the proposal for community service, if accepted, could set “a disturbing precedent.”
“Gupta’s request would be laughable if it didn’t indicate the mindset of Wall Street,” she writes, adding: “When a deal goes bad, the thinking goes, let’s try to talk our way out or write new rules, so the dealmakers can still come out on top or at least suffer minimal losses.”
“The Risks and Rewards Of Being A Whistle-blower,” The Diane Rehm Show, 10/11/12. (Transcripts of interview with John R. Phillips. Listen to audio clip.)
“Well, we’ve been bringing these cases for over 26 years. We carefully screen… these cases and would not bring a case unless it was well grounded… And the government does join most of the cases that we bring.”
“These companies aren’t paying billions of dollars back because they made a simple mistake. They’re paying it back because they knew they were doing it and they did it anyway because it was profitable for them. And they’re being caught now and they are being deterred from doing it in the future.”
“The Plaintiffs’ Hot List,” National Law Journal, 10/1/12.
. . . We asked our readers to nominate firms that have done exemplary, cutting edge work on the plaintiffs side. We looked for firms that scored at least one significant plaintiffs win between June 30, 2011 and July 1, 2012, and that possessed and impressive track record of wins within the past three to five years.
“With $425 million to spend, SEC starts whistleblower program with small reward that portends others,” ACFS, 9/25/12.
Coming one year after the SEC launched its program in August 2011, the first reward signals the SEC is acting quickly and aggressively to encourage whistleblowers, says Erika Kelton, an attorney specializing in representing whistleblowers at Phillips & Cohen, in Washington, D.C.
“This payout is critical to show whistleblowers that this is a robust, functioning program,” says Kelton, “and it’s operating very well. A one-year turnaround is exceptional.”
“Report and be damned: an American whistleblower’s story,” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 8/28/12.
Erika Kelton, an American attorney at Phillips & Cohen with significant experience, believes that the most important lesson from Asadi’s case is that employees are not always better off voicing their complaints internally.
“If Asadi had reported first to the SEC, things could have been different,” Kelton said from Washington.
“For the most part, HCA did the right thing on Florida cardiology problems,” Forbes, 8/7/12.
Google “whistleblower” and you’ll see this website for Phillips and Cohen in Washington, which has won billions of dollars in suits, including a $3 billion suit against Glaxo this year over “off-label” marketing of Advair, Wellbutrin and other drugs. The firm was also involved in litigation against HCA.
“IRS sets timeline for action on whistleblower claims,” Tax Notes Today, 6/22/12.
Erika A. Kelton of Phillips & Cohen LLP said that Senate Finance Committee member Chuck Grassley, R. Iowa, deserves most of the credit for the change. “His forceful advocacy for the IRS whistleblower program and his unrelenting criticism of the IRS for its failure to take advantage of such a promising enforcement program has yielded positive results,” she said.
“False Claims Act May Increasingly Be Used to Target Financial Companies, Lawyers Say,” Banking Daily, 5/19/11.
Indeed, Phillips & Cohen LLP founding partner Mary Louise Cohen told BNA May 18 that casual conversations with DOJ officials inform her that the government fully expects an increase in FCA cases involving financial services firms.
“In conversations with people at the Justice Department – we frequently have conversations among members of our bar at conferences – it became clear that they anticipate seeing these cases. They expect to see TARP cases, they expect to see financial cases,” said Cohen, whose firm specializes in representing whistleblowers.
“How to Encourage Whistle-Blowers to Report Internally,” Agenda, 2/28/11.
“It’s really important for boards to evaluate their whistle-blower hotline or internal reporting mechanism to make sure that reporting is friendly to individuals and gives assurance that there won’t be retaliation,” says Erika Kelton, a partner with Phillips & Cohen, a law firm that specializes in representing whistle-blowers.
“The policy needs to be open-door and whistle-blower friendly, meaning that companies can’t react to an employee’s concerns by going through his job performance with a fine-tooth comb and raising issues that had not been issues at prior reviews,” Kelton adds.
“Companies prod SEC on whistleblower proposal,” The Wall Street Journal, 2/11/11.
Lawyers for whistleblowers counter that requiring internal reporting would kill the program by discouraging would-be tipsters from coming forward for fear of being identified.
“If mandated internal reporting were required it would be like turning off the tap,” of whistleblower tips, said Erika Kelton of law firm Phillips & Cohen LLP.
“Firms face sudden rush of whistleblower claims,” Corporate Counsel, 9/9/10.
. . . Erika Kelton, partner at the plaintiffs’ powerhouse Phillips & Cohen in Washington, D.C., agreed that the outpouring [of SEC whistleblowers] is huge. . . . Kelton was the lead attorney for a whistleblower suit against Pfizer Inc., which paid a record-setting $2.3 billion in mid-2009 to settle civil and criminal charges for using illegal sales tactics.
“Larger bounties spur surge in fraud tips,” Wall Street Journal, 9/7/10.
“The SEC is offering some protections for informants. . . . These features, combined with the guaranteed minimum payout for whistle-blowers who qualify, are encouraging insiders to step forward,” said Erika Kelton of Phillips & Cohen LLP.
“Whistleblower Incentives Prompt Greater Board Diligence,” Agenda, 8/9/10.
The recently enacted Dodd-Frank Act creates new financial incentives and legal protections for whistleblowers to provide government prosecutors with evidence of corporate fraud, prompting boards to make far stronger efforts to ensure compliance.
. . . Boards will have to set the tone for improved communications within their companies. “Directors and executives should be listening to their employees,” says Erika Kelton, a partner at Phillips & Cohen.
“Health-Fraud Whistleblower Cases May Surge Because of Federal Law Overhaul,” Bloomberg, 7/28/10.
“Generally, the trend is up, up, up and more, more, more,” said Erika A. Kelton, a Washington-based attorney for Phillips & Cohen LLP. She represented John Kopchinski, a former Pfizer salesman, in a so-called qui tam, or whistleblower, lawsuit against the New York-based company that yielded the $1 billion settlement.
“Financial reform law includes big cash incentives for whistle-blowers,” Los Angeles Times, 7/23/10.
The new SEC whistleblower program “is very significant and will have an immediate impact,” said Erika Kelton, a Washington lawyer who has represented whistle-blowers. “It will motivate knowledgeable insiders to step forward and tell the enforcement agencies what they know. It is the secret weapon in this massive bill.”
“Whistleblowers motivated by integrity, study says,” Main Justice, 5/13/10.
Phillips & Cohen LLP’s Erika Kelton, who has represented several whistleblowers, including a sales representative in an illegal marketing case against Pfizer Inc. that settled last year for $1.8 billion, said in a statement that the study tracked closely with her experience.
“People often turn to us after they have been fired or have raised their concerns with management but nothing changes. Typically, whistleblowers decide to file a ‘qui tam’ lawsuit as a last resort,” she said. “Most are motivated more by exposing wrongdoing and stopping what are often harmful or dangerous practices than by any hope for a reward.”
“Tattling for dollars; The growing ranks of IRS informants,” Daily Finance, 5/8/10.
Erika Kelton, a partner at Phillips & Cohen who represents whistleblowers, says the IRS has received information from informants that it wouldn’t have obtained otherwise. She notes that over three years, thousands have cases have been filed, dozens of which are valued at over $100 million, adding, “The IRS can only be at so many places at once.”