Number of Indians Turning Whistle-Blowers in U.S. on the Rise

Originally Published in The Economic Times

By Dilasha Seth & Soma Das

November 21, 2014

New Delhi – Within a year and half of Ranbaxy whistle-blower Dinesh Thakur bagging $48 million by revealing company's misadventures, there has been a fourfold jump in the number of Indians reporting secret tips about misconduct and fraudulent practices to the US watchdog.

Thakur worked with multiple US agencies for eight years to expose dubious practices at Ranbaxy which ended up in the company pleading guilty to lapses in manufacturing and data-documentation and agreeing to pay $500 million in May 2013.

Top American lawyers dealing with fraud ET spoke to, attributed the uptick in interest levels largely to Thakur's high profile case and the publicity generated around it. Besides, escalating scrutiny of the US Food and Drug Administration in India since last year and anti-corruption drives in China, particularly bribery cases against pharma giants such as GlaxoSmithKline were some of the other reasons cited by attorneys behind heightening interest levels among Indians in blowing the lid off potential scams.

The US system allows people from across the world to report complains online, through mails and faxes. The whistleblowers is entitled to a reward, if their tip leads to the collection of more than $1 million in monetary sanctions. For instance, this could range between 10 to 25% of the total recoveries of the government under the False Claims Act of the US federal law.

Thakur feels there are many like him out there keen to expose wrongdoing but India must put in place a robust legislative framework for whistle-blowers if it is serious about taking corporate frauds head on.

"I believe there never has been a lack of intent on part of people in India to report wrongdoing. This has been amply demonstrated in Satyendra Dubey, Shanmughan Manjunath, Vijay Pandhare, Jeetandra Ghadge and more. What is missing is a proper framework or a law in India which encourages whistle-blowers to share sensitive information with government without fear" said Thakur. That was the case almost a decade back when I had decided to hold Ranbaxy accountable for wrongdoing and not much has changed since then, he added.

Thakur said that some of these are extremely sensitive cases and can drag on for years and therefore warrants a minimum guarantee from the government that the identity and security of the whistle-blower doesn't get compromised.

Andrew Beato, the chair of the False Claims Act and Whistleblower Practice Group at Stein Mitchell Muse Cipollone & Beato LLP said "The actions by the US FDA and Department of Justice against Ranbaxy, as initiated by Dinesh Thakur, helped raise awareness of the existence of the False Claims Act as a way to report serious violations to government authorities in the US and protect against retaliation, even where the conduct traced in part to India. It is common to see an increase in reports of violations following the unsealing of a significant case. This is particularly true in (cases) involving public health and safety".

Agrees his peer Eric Young, an attorney with McEldrew Young, another US law firm that represents whistle-blowers. Young feels that the FDA inspections of Indian pharma manufacturers earlier this year and the publicity it generated about Thakur certainly could have led to an increase in tips.

The latest report of US Securities and Exchange Commission shows that there were 69 tips from India between October 2013 to September 2014, making it the second largest source of such leads outside of US. The number of leads from India is almost at par with UK, which generated 70 tips to become the largest source for such tips. Indians had reported only 18 such clues between October 2012 to September 2013.

"However, it is not the only potential explanation for more tips. There has also been a great deal of publicity about international corruption over the past year. The allegations of bribery committed by GlaxoSmithKline in China, Poland and elsewhere, for example, could have spurred whistle-blowers as well" added Young. However the number of tips originating from China has seen a dip from 62 in 2013 to 32 in 2014, during which the total number of tips the US watchdog received went up to 3,620 from 3238.

Link to Original Article: Number of Indians turning whistle-blowers in US on the rise

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