This vote was on an amendment by Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., that would cap the amount of money a whistleblower can collect to $50 million per case or 300 percent of the expenses incurred as a result of government contractor fraud, whichever is greater. The amendment was offered to a bill aimed at combating financial fraud.
Kyl said the point of his amendment is to limit the amount of money that can be deducted from money that’s due to the government as compensation as a result of a whistleblower or an investigator who goes to court with evidence that the government has been defrauded. In order to encourage people to come forward with these claims, the law entitles these private citizens to recover the costs of investigating and pursuing the claims as well as a portion of the money due the government.
“I think we would all agree it is right and proper that the [whistleblowers or investigators] be compensated for exposing incidents for which the Federal Government has been defrauded. Such actions have saved the Government billions of dollars over the years,” Kyl said. “So although I think we all agree whistleblowers deserve to be compensated when they save the Government money, I would also think we could agree there has to be some limit; that they don’t deserve to be grossly overcompensated, especially when that compensation comes at the expense of the Federal Treasury.”
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he opposes the amendment because without those whistleblowers to do the legwork and pursue the claims, billions of dollars in fraud would have gone unnoticed. He also said the current law allowing them to collect those monies has a balanced way of ensuring fairness.
“They share in such recoveries if it is warranted and if it is approved by the judge. A judge has to approve it. It has worked out very well. Rather than there being an arbitrary cap, I would rather leave it to the judge to make the determination,” Leahy said.
By a vote of 31-61, the amendment was rejected. Of Republicans present, 30 voted for the amendment and 9 voted against it. All but one Democrat present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the measure went forward without a cap on the amount of money whistleblowers or private citizens can collect as a result of pursuing government fraud investigations.