ROME, Italy, October 20, 2016 – Officials and legal experts from the U.S. and Italy – including Erika Kelton and Dr. Peter Budetti of Phillips & Cohen — gathered at a conference today at the US Embassy in Rome to discuss how US-style whistleblower laws might be effective tools for Italy to fight fraud and corruption.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Italy’s Minister of Justice Andrea Orlando were the keynote speakers (video) at the event, which was organized by US Ambassador John Phillips. He played a leading role in the drafting and passage of the modern-day US False Claims Act in 1986, a whistleblower law that has been a spectacular success, and is a former partner at Phillips & Cohen.
Kelton and Dr. Budetti were invited to speak at the conference as experts on US whistleblower laws and programs. Phillips & Cohen is the most experienced and most successful law firm representing whistleblowers under laws that protect and reward whistleblowers, with billions recovered for taxpayers and investors.
Kelton, a partner at Phillips & Cohen, discussed the whistleblower programs created by the Dodd-Frank Act for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the positive impact SEC and CFTC whistleblowers have had on stopping corporate fraud and corruption in the US and elsewhere around the world.
She represented three clients who have received SEC whistleblower awards, including an international client who received the largest SEC award, more than $32 million, for his efforts and those of Phillips & Cohen to help the SEC stop a scheme that hurt investors.
Dr. Budetti, nicknamed the “anti-fraud czar” while serving as a deputy administrator with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, explained how the False Claims Act works and the impact it has had on stopping fraud, such as healthcare fraud and defense contractor fraud, that costs the government billions of dollars.
In opening remarks, a US embassy official noted that Italy would face many challenges to implementing whistleblower laws similar to those in the US, such as the differences between the U.S. and Italy’s legal systems and the cultural attitudes toward whistleblowing.
The Chamber of Deputies in Italy passed a whistleblower bill that is being debated in the country’s Senate that would extend whistleblower protections to private sector for first time. Some have advocated incorporating financial incentives for whistleblowers into the bill, like some US laws offer.
On Friday, Kelton and Dr. Budetti are speaking on a panel presentation about U.S. whistleblower laws at Tor Vergata University. They will be joined by Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project. That event is sponsored by the university, the U.S. Embassy and Noi Contro La Corruzione, an anti-corruption group.