National Whistleblower Appreciation Day
Whistleblowers who courageously call out wrongdoing deserve (at least) a day of recognition for their role in holding accountable corporations and individuals in positions of power. Congress first recognized National Whistleblower Day on July 30, 2015, as the Continental Congress first passed a whistleblower law on July 30th, 1778. America’s first whistleblowers were 10 sailors and marines who wrote a petition to the Continental Congress regarding the misconduct of their commander, Commodore Esek Hopkins. Their complaint led to the commodore filing a criminal libel suit against the sailors, and two of the group were jailed. The two incarcerated sailors petitioned the Continental Congress for protection, as they believed reporting wrongdoing was “nothing but their duty.” In addition to defraying the costs of the sailors’ defense, the Continental Congress also passed the first American whistleblower law, enshrining the concept of the duty to report misconduct in the fledgling government.
The next major whistleblower law came about with another American crisis, the Civil War. Due to rampant Union War Department contract fraud, the False Claims Act was passed in 1863. The False Claims Act allows a “relator,” or non-governmental third party, to report fraud and bring suit on behalf of the government. This concept arises out of ancient Roman and Anglo-Saxon law, wherein (generally) a person reporting a crime could receive a portion of the defendant’s forfeited property. The abbreviation for this concept, qui tam, comes from the Latin phrase, “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur,” or “[he] who sues in this matter for the king as well as for himself.”