The Law Firm of Piacentile, Stefanowski & Malherbe LLP

Famous Whistleblowers


  1. Daniel Ellsberg - Ellsberg was a military analyst who leaked the “Pentagon Papers,” first to The New York Times and then to The Washington Post. The documents revealed the U.S.’s growing political and military involvement in Vietnam leading up to the war there.

  2. Edward Snowden - This former National Security Agency contractor leaked classified documents revealing that the federal government gathers information on private citizens as part of its massive electronic-surveillance program.

  3. Bradley Manning - This Army private, who changed his legal name to Chelsea Manning in April of 2015, turned over a huge trove of classified military and diplomatic records to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

  4. Collen Rowley - Rowley wrote a paper for then-FBI director Robert Mueller detailing how the failure to circulate the intelligence on Zacarias Moussaoui, French member of al-Qaeda, to the appropriate security agencies left the United States vulnerable to the September 11th attacks.

Her congressional testimony on this issue launched a major reorganization within the FBI and the creation of a new Office of Intelligence that led to more information-sharing, especially in counterterrorism.

  1. Marsha Coleman Adebayo (2000) – Coleman was a Senior Policy Analyst in the Office of the Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She blew the whistle on the EPA for racial and gender discrimination in violation of Civil Rights Act of 1964 which began after she was removed from her position in South Africa where her "job was to essentially help the South African government to work on issues that impact public health". In South Africa she brought to the attention of the EPA the dangerous conditions an American company was exposing African workers who were mining to vanadium, a dangerous substance. Her case eventually led to the passing of the No-FEAR Act in 2002 that makes federal agencies more accountable for employee complaints.


a. Employees of the company

  1. Jeffrey Wigand - Wigand was a biochemist and a vice-president of research and development at Brown & Williamson (B&W) when he began to clash with senior executives. His research also involved improving chemicals used for "impact boosting," or enhancing nicotine absorption so it would affect the brain and nervous system faster. Wigand believed that this was a deliberate attempt to increase addiction to cigarettes. At the time, executives at Big Tobacco companies like B&W knew that nicotine was addictive, and that smoking was a health hazard, but they kept this secret from the public, even lying during congressional hearings.

In 1998, cigarette companies agreed to pay a $368 billion settlement to the federal government in response to the Mississippi lawsuit and suits filed by 45 other states. Wigand has since consulted on tobacco control policies with governments all over the world.

  1. Mark Whitacre - Whitacre was an Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) executive when he told an FBI agent that he and other senior executives were involved in a multinational, illegal price-fixing operation involving the animal feed additive lysine. Whitacre then worked with the FBI over three years and secretly taped conversations with other ADM executives and co-conspirators at Japanese and Korean companies to collect information about the scheme.

This would become a watershed investigation for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), leading to the largest ever antitrust fine in U.S. history at the time.

  1. Bradley Birkenfeld - A former banker and wealth manager at UBS, he was the first international banker to blow the whistle on illegal offshore accounts held in Switzerland by U.S. citizens. For his disclosures of IRS tax fraud by UBS, Birkenfeld was awarded $104 million, the largest reward ever given to an individual in the 25-year history of federal whistleblower reward laws. During his case, the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) provided communications assistance, drumming up public support from thousands of engaged members of its action alert network.

His disclosures have resulted in unprecedented recoveries for the U.S. taxpayers. The recoveries include $780 million dollars in civil fines and penalties paid by UBS bank, and over $25 billion dollars in collections from U.S. taxpayers who had illegally held “undeclared” offshore accounts in Switzerland and other countries. Ultimately, the Swiss government was forced to change its tax treaty with the United States to turn over the names of more than 4,900 American taxpayers who held illegal offshore accounts.

  1. Cynthia Cooper - An American accountant who formerly served as the Vice President of Internal Audit at WorldCom where her team exposed the largest accounting fraud in U.S. history of $3.8 billion. Cooper was named one of three "People of the Year" by Time magazine in 2002.

  2. Sherron Watkins – Exposed corporate financial scandal as Enron vice president in 2001. Watkins emailed Enron founder Kenneth Lay about fraudulent accounting at the company, and two months later Enron lost $1.2 billion in shareholder equity. Four months later, the company went bankrupt and had to seek bankruptcy protection. When Enron was investigated by Congress, Watkins testified about the fraud at Enron and her experience going to Lay about the issues in the company.

She has since been active in whistleblower advocacy, speaking at the 2019 celebration of National Whistleblower Day. Watkins also submitted comments in August of 2019 about the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) proposed amendments to their whistleblower program. Watkins was named Time's People of the Year in 2002.

  1. Sandy Kuba - In 1999, Kuba was hired to be an Analyst at The Disney Company. Around 2013, Kuba was doing well on her career path at Disney. People were seeking her out as she was an expert in Disney coding and accounting flow. She had become a Senior Analyst in Disney’s revenue-operations department, with her performance reports being excellent and showing positive ratings until 2016. These ratings showed Kuba “Right on Track and Moving Ahead” from 2013 to 2016. During 2013-2016, Kuba was noticing some revenue recognition issues and reported them to management. No one responded to her concerns. This happened during her final years of employment at Disney (2016 and 2017).

Kuba stated that she noticed anomalies in the Disney software equipment that she eventually tracked down. She found that Disney was able to receive approximately three billion dollars per year of false revenue. Two billion dollars of the false annual revenue consisted of coupon and gift card fraud, which distorted Disney’s financial reports. Kuba saw that Disney recognized revenue twice with coupons, which were typically included in Disney customer packages.

Recording free gift cards or coupons as revenue provided a false gross profit margin to investors. Kuba also alleged that another billion dollars of fictitious revenue was gained when Disney recorded customer deposits from early booking to current revenue rather than as a liability until the customer paid in full during the year of their trip. Disney also allegedly failed to pay proper state sales taxes that it collected from consumers by showing purchases under a different category, which had no sales tax or a reduced sales tax, such as food and beverage, thus significantly underpaying sales and property taxes to states and, again, fictitiously raising revenues shown to investors.

On June 19, 2017, the day after her final attempts at internal whistleblowing, Kuba was threatened not to report her concerns elsewhere, or Disney would consider it “retaliation against the company.” Kuba then contacted the SEC on August 1, 2017, to advise them of manipulation of revenue at Disney. Unfortunately, the pressure became too much for her husband of almost thirty years, Robert “Bob” Kuba, who shot himself on March 9, 2020. Currently, Sandra Kuba is waiting for justice with her autistic son, Robert.

  1. Everett A. Stern - an American businessman, whistleblower, and political candidate who is the intelligence director of Tactical Rabbit, Inc. He is best known for his actions in an HSBC money laundering scandal, where he uncovered billions of dollars in illegal money laundering transactions, which led to an SEC investigation and a $1.92 billion fine against HSBC in 2012.

He was the AML compliance officer for HSBC who uncovered billions of dollars of illegal money laundering transactions that he began reporting to the FBI and the CIA in 2011, which led to an SEC investigation and a $1.92 billion fine against HSBC the following year.

These encompassed charges of money laundering for drug traffickers, terrorist financiers, and nations under U.S. and international sanctions.

  1. Kim Gwang-ho – A South Korean engineer, Kim Gwang-ho was certain he would receive ample compensation from the whistleblower program of the U.S. auto safety regulator for a tip-off about safety lapses at Hyundai Motor Co., his employer of 26 years.

Kim's action led to an agreement last year by Hyundai and its affiliate, Kia, which are among the world's top 10 automakers by sales, to pay a record civil penalty of $210 million over recalls involving nearly 1.7 million vehicles.

Kim, who plans to set up a YouTube channel to teach people how to expose their employers' bad behavior, learned about the U.S. law through training that Hyundai provided, and which inspired him to come forward, he said in an interview.

  1. Hervé Falciani (2009) – Falciani is the person behind the "Lagarde list", so called as it is a list of HSBC clients who allegedly used the bank to evade taxes and launder money that Falciani leaked to ex-French Minister of Finance Christine Lagarde, currently the President of the European Central Bank. Lagarde, in turn, sent the list to governments whose citizens were on the list.

Since 2009 he has been collaborating with numerous Europeans nations by providing information relating to more than 130,000 suspected tax evaders with Swiss bank accounts—specifically those with accounts in HSBC's Swiss subsidiary HSBC Private Bank.

b. Not employees of the company

  1. Harry Markopolos - Sometimes a whistleblower needs to persist for many years before anyone will listen to them. Markopolos was a portfolio manager for a Boston investment management firm when he was asked to analyze the moneymaking methods of "financial whiz" Bernie Madoff so that his firm could also offer a similar product to Madoff's hedge fund. He quickly realized Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme, and he notified the SEC about Madoff's activities on multiple occasions, to no avail. Although a few officials at the Boston SEC office were receptive, they did not have jurisdiction, and the New York office ignored Markopolos’ efforts, including a 21-page report he compiled based on 14 years of Madoff's numbers.

Markopolos now works as a forensic accounting analyst and specializes in False Claims Act lawsuits and other whistleblower investigations.


  1. Jim Wetta - Jim Wetta played a key role in exposing two of the most egregious cases of drug companies over-marketing one of their products for uses not approved by the FDA. In 2003, while working as a sales rep for Eli Lilly, he helped initiate a whistleblower lawsuit alleging that the company was illegally marketing the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa. In 2009, Eli Lilly paid $800 million to settle whistleblower lawsuits, $438 million to the federal government and $362 million to states. Wetta received a portion of these settlements. Eli Lilly also paid a $515 million criminal fine, the largest criminal fine for an individual corporation ever imposed in a United States criminal prosecution of any kind. In total, Eli Lilly paid $1.4 billion to resolve allegations of off-label promotion of Zyprexa and signed a plea agreement admitting guilt to the criminal charge of misbranding, specifically admitting that they promoted Zyprexa in elderly populations as treatment for dementia.

  2. Adam B. Resnick (2006/2013) – Starting in 2006, Resnick sued the pharmaceutical company Omnicare, a major supplier of drugs to nursing homes, under federal whistleblower law, as well as the parties to the company's illegal kickback schemes. Omnicare allegedly paid kickbacks to nursing home operators to secure business, which constitutes Medicare and Medicaid fraud. In 2010, Omnicare settled a False Claims Act suit filed by Resnick and taken up by the DOJ, by paying $19.8 million to the federal government, while the two nursing homes involved in the scheme settled for $14 million.

A second whistleblower lawsuit filed against Omnicare it by Resnick and Total Pharmacy Services V.P., Maureen Nehls, related to kickbacks that were part of its 2004 acquisition of Total Pharmacy Services was settled for $17.2 million by Omnicare and $5 million by the Total Pharmacy owners.

  1. Daniel Richardson (2007) - Daniel Richardson is a former Senior District Business Manager for Bristol-Myers Squibb. With other whistleblowers, Richardson filed a qui tam action against their employer for illegal drug pricing and marketing activities that resulted in increased Medicare and Medicaid costs. The company had to pay $515 million fines and penalties to resolve a broad array of federal and state civil allegations.

Richardson and the other whistleblowers received a total of approximately $50 million in rewards.

  1. John Kopchinski (2009) – Former Pfizer sales representative and West Point graduate whose whistleblower lawsuit launched a massive government investigation into Pfizer's illegal and dangerous marketing of Bextra, a prescription painkiller. Pfizer paid $1.8 billion to the government to settle the case, including a $1.3 billion criminal fine, which was the largest criminal fine ever imposed for any matter. The Bextra settlement was part of a $2.3 billion global settlement – the largest healthcare fraud settlement in U.S. history.

  2. Nicole Newman (2019) - A former sales representative for Aqua Pharmaceuticals, formerly known as Almirall, sued Almirall on behalf of the government for making false claims between 2012 and 2017. The company allegedly caused false claims to be submitted to Medicare by giving excessive speaker and advisory fees, gifts and meals, entertainment, and gift cards to doctors who wrote prescriptions for their drugs.

Aqua pharmaceutical company, with its headquarters in Exton, Pennsylvania, paid $3.5 million to settle claims that it allegedly paid kickbacks to dermatologists in return for prescribing their drugs. The whistleblower, Nicole Newman, received about $735,000 of the settlement

  1. Cheryl, Eckard (2010) - Eckard blew the whistle on widespread contamination problems at GlaxoSmithKline’s pharmaceutical manufacturing operations. Her case resulted in GSK paying a $750 million settlement with the U.S. government for selling adulterated pharmaceuticals. Eckard received $96 million herself for coming forward, the second largest award ever paid to an individual whistleblower.


  1. Victoria Starr, Lynn Powell, Camille McGowan, Judy Doetterl and Kurtis J. Barry (2019) - J&J agreed to pay more than $2.2 billion to resolve allegations it promoted Risperdal, Invega, and Natecor, for off-label uses. The company promoted Risperdal for use in children and individuals with mental illness, while knowing that the drug posed health risks to children.

  2. Meredith McCoyd (2012) - McCoyd was a sales representative for Abbott in Atlanta. Abbott was illegally marketing the anti-seizure drug Depakote for uses that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Abbott Laboratories plead guilty to misbranding Depakote by promoting the drug to control agitation and aggression in elderly dementia patients and to treat schizophrenia when neither of these uses was FDA-approved.

  3. Thomas Gerahty & Matthew Burke (2001) - Gerahty, a former senior marketing development manager for Glaxo, and Burke, a former regional vice president for Glaxo, provided invaluable insider information that the London-based pharmaceutical company was engaging in corrupt nationwide schemes to push sales of Advair, Wellbutrin, Imitrex and other popular prescription drugs for off-label uses, that it used improper financial inducements to market its drugs, and that it misrepresented the safety and efficacy of those drugs.

  4. Greg Thorpe (2012) - GSK employee reported concerns about illegal marketing practices they learned of while working in the field for the drug company.

GlaxoSmithKline paid $2 billion to resolve its civil liabilities with the federal government under the False Claims Act. The civil settlement resolves claims relating to Paxil, Wellbutrin and Avandia, as well as addition-al drugs, and also resolves pricing fraud allegations.

  1.  John Miller (2017) - A licensed nurse, he had been employed as a clinical reviewer but had been instructed to fraudulently approve diagnostic test requests without proper review. $54 million settlement in a newly unsealed healthcare fraud whistleblower action against CareCore National LLC. The company, headquartered in Bluffton, SC, provides pre-authorization/ pre-certification services for diagnostic testing to ensure that only medically reasonable and necessary tests are performed on patients and paid for by insurers.

  2. Walter W. Gauger and George Bradford Hunt (2006)- Licensed pharmacists, Gauger and Hunt were employed by Medco for nearly two decades and worked at its largest automated mail order facility in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hunt and Gauger provided information that since 1993, Medco defrauded the federal Government, as well as state governments, of hundreds of millions of dollars using a variety of false and fraudulent schemes.

Medco paid $155 million to settle false claims act allegations that the company submitted false claims to the government, solicited and accepted kickbacks from pharmaceutical manufacturers to favor their drugs and paid kickbacks to health plans to obtain business.

  1. Bruce Boise (2008) – As Sales Representative he refused to follow company-ordered sales strategies to convince doctors to prescribe Cephalon’s Actiq, Gabitril, and Provigil drugs for unapproved (“off-label’) uses because he was worried that the sales practices were illegal, and the “off-label” uses were dangerous for patients. Boise was so concerned about Cephalon’s off-label marketing that he contacted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to inform them of what the company was doing and then agreed to wear a wire to a company sales conference to help the government gather evidence. The decision to report Cephalon to the FDA cost Boise his job and future employment in the pharmaceutical industry. But his information helped end Cephalon’s illegal marketing practices that put patients at risk and led to today’s settlement.

Cephalon paid $425 million for off-label marketing violations. The settled allegations with the U.S. government related to the illegal off-label marketing of three of its drugs – Actiq, Gabitril and Provigil. Bristol-Myers Squibb Paid $515 Million for Illegal Drug Marketing and Pricing Settled allegations with the U.S. government to resolve a broad array of allegations involving the company’s drug marketing and pricing practices.

Other relators in this case: Lucia Paccione & Michael Makalusly. Both also being former sales representatives.

  1. Daniel Richardson (2007) - He reported his employer Bristol-Myers Squibb for illegal marketing drugs which resulted in increased Medicare and Medicaid costs. Richardson, and other whistleblowers, filed qui tam actions against the drug maker. In September of 2007, the Department of Justice announced a settlement in which Bristol-Myers Squibb agreed to pay $515 million to resolve the allegations.

BMS and its subsidiary, Apothecon, paid illegal remuneration to physicians, retail pharmacy and wholesaler customers to induce them to purchase BMS drugs, causing the submission of false and fraudulent claims to the federal health care programs. Bristol-Myers Squibb agreed to pay over $515 million.

  1. Maxine Jones (2007) She was hired by Horizon Healthcare Corporation as a patient care services consultant. Her job responsibilities included reviewing Medicare claim forms which sought reimbursement for services performed at several of Appellee's skilled health care facilities in Michigan and Wisconsin. While conducting a claims review she discovered that several of the claim forms prepared by Horizon administration and employees were incorrect because the services allegedly performed did not correspond with the patients' files and the instructions of the medical staff. Appellant alleges that she informed management of the fraudulent claims and, as a result of her actions, her employment was terminated three months later. 

Horizon National Healthcare pleaded to conspiring to defraud Medicaid of approximately $5.5 million. Horizon Conspired to submit inflated claims for payment to Medicaid for services rendered to certain Medicaid patients at their adult medical day care centers. Those patients did not receive the claimed services.

  1. Christopher R. Gobble (2010) – Gobble was a sales representative for Forest Pharmaceutical and observer and complained about improper conduct from illegal kickbacks and off- label promotions of Celexa and Lexapro, drugs for use in children and adolescents.

Forest Pharmaceuticals paid more than $313 million to resolve criminal charges and false claims act allegations. Forest plead guilty to charges relating to the distribution of Levothroid, at the time an unapproved new drug, and the illegal promotion of Celexa for use in treating children and adolescents suffering from depression. The company also agreed to settle pending FCA allegations that Forest caused false claims to be submitted to federal health care programs for the drugs Levothroid, Celexa, and Lexapro.

  1. Kassie Westmoreland (2012) - A former sales representative, said Amgen overfilled vials of Aranesp, essentially providing free drugs to doctors. Amgen paid $762 million. Amgen pleaded guilty to illegally introducing a misbranded drug into interstate commerce.

  2. James Goan and Lisa Alexander (2015) - Two former Warner Chilcott pharmaceutical sales representatives who brought the qui tam “whistleblower” lawsuit after they were expected by their employer to participate in illegal activities. The former Warner Chilcott employees also actively cooperated with a lengthy government criminal investigation which resulted in criminal indictments for several company executives, managers and physicians. Warner Chilcott paid $125 million for felony health care fraud scheme. Warner Chilcott paid $125 million to resolve its criminal and civil liability arising from the company’s illegal marketing of the drugs Actonel, Asacol, Atelvia, Doryx, Enablex, Estrace, and Loestrin.

  3. Peggy Ryan, Max H. Weathersby and Gursheel S. Dhillon (2014)- All three alleged that Endo promoted Lidoderm for uses that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration nor medically accepted, thus causing false claims to be submitted to federal healthcare programs. Ryan and Weathersby where both sales representatives, while Dhillon is a physician who was engaged by Endo to participate on the fraud. Endo Pharmaceuticals paid $192.7M to resolve liability for marketing prescription drugs for unapproved uses.