Whistleblower Client Rewarded Maximum Recovery of 50% for Reporting Oil Spill Cover-up

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Gavel on top of money and a flag, representing Whistleblower Client Rewarded

Maximum Recovery as Whistleblower Client Rewarded 50% of Fine

As a result of a Whistleblower complaint filed by James Legg of Anchorage, Alaska, on October 23, 2007, Polar Tankers, Inc., a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips, pled guilty to failure to maintain an oil record book aboard the T/V Polar Discovery, an 895 foot crude oil tanker in violation of 33 U.S.C. §1908(a) of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships. The statute requires all ships to record all transfers of oil and oily waste occurring on the vessel, including emergency and accidental discharges of oily waste.

As detailed in Mr. Legg’s whistleblower complaint, on January 16, 2004, the crew aboard the T/V Polar Discovery was transferring the oily sludge from the engine room tanks through piping to a holding tank on deck. An open valve caused sludge to spill onto the deck and through the scuppers – holes in the ship that allow water and other liquids to drain off the deck.

Instead of reporting the spill, the captain slowed the vessel and turned it away from the wind so that the crew could clean off the oil left on the side of the ship where it had drained through the scuppers. The captain then falsified the bridge logbook by reporting the change of course as a man overboard drill.

The ConocoPhillips’ tanker company has agreed to pay a government fine in the amount of $500,000 as well as make a $2,000,000 contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The Court also awarded the whistleblower, James Legg, the maximum reward of 50% of the fine or $250,000 for his efforts in the case.

Mr. Legg, an Engineer aboard the T/V Polar Discovery at the time of the spill, was represented by co-counsel, Brandon J. Lauria.

“Mr. Legg is a courageous and conscientious citizen who reported Polar Tankers’ wrongdoing because it was in the public interest. The Court’s decision to award Mr. Legg with the maximum statutory reward for his efforts is significant because it recognizes the vital role played by whistleblowers in combating acts harmful to our environment,” said Mr. Lauria.

Whistleblower Rewarded for  Exceptional Contribution and Risk

Under the False Claims Act (FCA) in the United States, the percentage of monetary rewards granted to whistleblowers can vary depending on several factors. The FCA allows whistleblowers, also known as relators, to file qui tam lawsuits on behalf of the government to expose fraud and recover funds.

The FCA provides a range for the potential reward, which is typically between 15% and 30% of the total amount recovered by the government through the qui tam lawsuit. The specific percentage within this range is determined by the court based on various factors, including the significance of the whistleblower’s contribution to the case, the extent of their assistance in the investigation, and the level of risk involved.

While the 15% to 30% range is commonly cited, it is rare for whistleblowers to receive the maximum percentage. The majority of rewards fall within the lower end of the range, typically around 15% to 25%. A 50% reward is less common and generally reserved for exceptional cases where the whistleblower’s contribution and risk taken are deemed exceptional by the court.

Ultimately, the percentage of the reward is determined by the court based on the circumstances of each specific case. It’s important to consult legal resources or seek professional advice for precise information regarding whistleblower rewards under the False Claims Act.