June 12, 2023
Gary L. Azorsky and Raymond M. Sarola attorneys within Cohen Milstein’s Whistleblower/False Claims Act practice, submitted a comment letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in response to its proposed rules for implementing its whistleblower program.
We represent individuals who submit claims under federal and state whistleblower programs, including NHTSA’s whistleblower program which is designed to incentivize individuals who work in the automobile industry to report safety violations that pose risks to human lives.
As counsel for whistleblowers, we appreciate NHTSA’s acknowledgement of the critical role of whistleblowers and its efforts to establish an effective and transparent whistleblower program. The opportunity to receive an award is a significant incentive to whistleblowing. The incidence of whistleblowing will increase when rules are adopted that reassure individuals they will be entitled to an award if they satisfy the eligibility criteria, and the government obtains a successful enforcement outcome based on their information.
Cohen Milstein provided comments on four aspects of the proposed rules. We:
- Expressed our view that whistleblowers should receive awards based not only on amounts that the government receives from a company in an enforcement action, but also based on amounts that the government requires companies to pay to third parties, such as the victims of automobile defects.
- Advocated for a definition of “related action” that includes all government enforcement activity that is substantially related to “covered actions,” so that whistleblowers are not penalized if the government takes enforcement action through multiple agencies in civil and criminal contexts.
- Objected to the proposed rule that would grant the Administrator of NHTSA the discretion to deny an award to a whistleblower who otherwise meets all eligibility criteria.
- Argued that NHTSA should make payments to whistleblowers of the uncontested portions of their awards even if a portion is subject to judicial appeal.
We believe the views expressed in our letter will assist NHTSA in implementing a world-class whistleblower program – one that enhances public safety by encouraging automobile industry workers with information about safety violations to report that information to NHTSA, thereby assisting the government in protecting drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.