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Another complicating factor when a risk manager considers blowing the whistle is the possibility of the risk manager being rewarded for turning in the employer, such as receiving 10% or 25% of the damages in a qui tam case.
Is that unethical? After all, the risk manager is supposed to keep the organization on the straight and narrow, and a fraud investigation could be seen as a failure of sorts.
It should not be the motivation, but the potential windfall should not deter the whistleblower either, says Andrew A. Oppenberg, MPH, CPHRM, DFASHRM, director of risk management and patient safety officer at Dignity Health Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center in Glendale, CA. Oppenberg also is a former president of the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM).
"Regardless of the money, doing the right thing is still the right thing to do," Oppenberg says.
And besides, the money could be necessary, Oppenberg says, because a risk manager might be effectively ending his or her career by blowing the whistle. There are legal prohibitions on retaliation by the employer, but in reality the act of whistleblowing will be a red flag to every future employer, Oppenberg says. In an ideal world, other employers would see the person as highly ethical and willing to make the hard decisions, but in the real world employers will worry that the risk manager will cause trouble for them, too.
"If the qui tam is successfully prosecuted, my guess is that risk manager is not going to work again for the rest of his life," Oppenberg says "If I were in that position of considering whistleblowing, I would move heaven and earth to do everything possible to avoid filing a qui tam."