Litigation: Investigating whistleblower complaints: When whistleblowers raise issues, proceed with caution

Companies launch internal investigations based on information that comes from a variety of sources, including newspaper articles, government requests for information and information bubbling up from within the organization that makes its way to the legal department. These issues can be spotted by the compliance department or raised in an internal audit. An internal investigation can also arise from information shared by employees, some of whom report issues of concern with no hint of adversity and others who raise issues as whistleblowers.

When issues are raised by individual employees who qualify as whistleblowers, companies should proceed carefully given the risk of corporate liability for retaliation. Equally important is the manner in which a company investigates the substance of whistleblower allegations. A properly handled investigation is critical not only for avoiding retaliation litigation—it can also often make the difference between aggressive criminal and regulatory enforcement action or an alternative resolution with the government.

Originally published in Inside Counsel on June 13, 2013.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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