How many people have heard of Gallup polls? The Gallup Organization is probably the best known polling firm in the nation. To be a premier polling company, both the public and its clients have to believe in the company’s methods. Integrity is everything in the polling industry.
Unfortunately, the Gallup Organization was the subject of a whistleblower complaint claiming the company acted unethically and overcharged the government for services.
Considering the government is one of Gallup’s largest customers, the charges were quite serious. The accusations against Gallup occurred several years ago and ultimately the company paid a $10.5 million fine. The company also agreed to a corporate integrity agreement that required ethics training for all its employees.
Although the company never admitted to any wrongdoing, it was subject to a three year bar against further government work. That bar began in April of 2013 but was rescinded early after the Department of Homeland Security agreed that the company had suitable safeguards in place.
This case points up an interesting dilemma. How should the government handle cases when the wrongdoer is a key supplier of goods or services. Take Boeing for example. It is the sole supplier for much of our Air Force combat aircraft yet the company has been successfully prosecuted 10 times in recent years for fraud.
Since companies can’t be put in jail, our only remedies are fines, corporate integrity agreements and debarment. The latter remedy means that a vendor becomes ineligible for further government contracts or grants.
Corporate integrity agreements can play a valuable role when a company is simply too valuable to our nation’s security. These agreements can include mandatory training, installation of an independent monitor or even a requirement that certain executives step down.
There is no easy answer to the question of how to discipline companies that commit fraud against taxpayers. Whistleblower complaints remain key in keeping companies honest and stopping greed and fraud, however. Last year just over 700 complaints were filed under the False Claims Act. Whistleblower awards last year exceed $435 million.
Awards? Under the False Claims Act a whistleblower can receive up to 30% of whatever the government collects from the wrongdoer. There actions in stepping forward can save taxpayers billions of dollars too. Sometimes their actions even save lives.
Thinking about becoming a whistleblower? Give us a call. All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept confidential. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (direct)
MahanyLaw – America’s Whistleblower Lawyers