In 1994 the seven CEOs of the major American tobacco companies testified before Congress that nicotine was not addictive. Two years later, VP for research and development at the Brown & Williamson tobacco company Jeffrey Wigand came forward, and reported that his employer knowingly doctored the nicotine content, adding toxic substances such as ammonia, in its cigarettes to enhance its addictive qualities. National new broke out and tobacco companies were forced to reveal the truth.
Likewise, in our communities examples of courageous people who report fraudulent wrongdoings by businesses and government agencies abound. Recently a New Hampshire resident reported how medical product companies sent her diabetes medication without previous authorization from her doctor. Her report led to the discovery of how the medical companies had been sending medications without doctor authorization to many other people, and submitting unauthorized claims to Medicare. Ultimately, the companies paid $35 million to resolve the allegations.
Our society relies on courageous people to detect and stop businesses and government institutions from violating people’s rights, engaging in corruption, committing fraud, or outright lying. Recognizing the value of these informers in helping maintain a strong democracy, the law encourages citizens to report potential wrongdoings by offering extensive legal protection and a generous compensation. Just last month President Obama signed into law a legislation that expands protection for whistleblowers against retaliation.
Massachusetts offers plenty of legal defenses for citizens who report false claims and other transgressions made by government agencies and private businesses, or at their places of employment. The False Claim Act and the Whistleblowers Act, set forth in the Massachusetts General Laws, defines the types of activities that should be reported and the rewards for those who take action. We would like to provide a brief summary of its contents.