New Jersey Consumer Fraud Whistleblowers
When companies engage in fraudulent activities against their customers, shareholders, the government, or the general public, these activities are usually well hidden and can sometimes go unnoticed by regulating authorities. This is why employees who act as whistleblowers play an important role in detecting and reporting consumer fraud.
Whistleblowers open themselves up to great risk by coming forward about consumer fraud, facing retaliation from their employers such as termination, demotion, or harassment. Fortunately, the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) offers broad protection for these employees against retaliation. Whistleblowers can also receive financial rewards under some state and federal statutes if their reports of consumer fraud are proven valid.
From our offices in Red Bank, NJ, Newark, NJ, and Marlton, NJ, McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. helps employees report the crimes their employer commits while aggressively protecting the rights of whistleblowers in New Jersey.
Examples of Consumer Fraud
There are consumer protection laws in place at both state and federal levels to make sure that public-serving companies are treating their customers fairly. This includes industries such as banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, cell phone companies, and more. However, sometimes companies attempt to get around these rules, resulting in consumer fraud.
Consumer fraud occurs when a person suffers a financial loss due to deceptive, unfair, or misleading business practices. This can cover a wide range of fraudulent activities. Some examples of this type of fraud include:
- Overcharging, including additional fees or unnecessarily high interest rates.
- Failure to provide services or products that have been paid for.
- Providing inaccurate information to customers, or failing to disclose important information.
- Providing different levels of service or charging different fees based on characteristics such as race, gender, national origin, or other factors.
- Knowingly selling dangerous or defective products.
- New Jersey Lemon Law violations. This law protects purchasers of passenger vehicles with defects that dealers will not or cannot fix.
- Misrepresenting services or qualifications.
- Identity theft.
- Mortgage fraud.
- Prize or lottery fraud.
- Fake charities.
- COVID-19 related scams.
Employees who become aware of any of these or other fraudulent activities by their employer are encouraged by New Jersey law to step forward and report it. An experienced consumer fraud attorney like those at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. can advise you on whether or not your employer’s actions constitute illegal activity.
Fraud on the Government – Qui Tam Claims
If an individual has evidence of fraud against the United States government, he or she may decide to come forward as a whistleblower with that evidence and file a qui tam lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act and the New Jersey False Claims Act. As with CEPA whistleblower claims, employees who follow qui tam claims are protected against retaliation. Violations under the False Claims Act and/or New Jersey False Claims Act include, but are not limited to:
- Submitting claims for payment for goods or services not rendered. Overcharging for goods and services provided by government contracts.
- Promoting drugs for uses that have not been approved by the FDA.
There are financial incentives for filing a qui tam claim for consumer fraud. An employer faces a civil penalty of $5,000 to $11,000 for each violation of the False Claim Act, while the qui tam plaintiff who initiated the action is entitled to 15 to 30 percent of that penalty – regardless of whether the sum is paid by court order or via settlement. Additionally, a prevailing party in a qui tam case who suffered retaliation in the form of demotion or termination is entitled not only to job reinstatement but also an award of double back pay plus interest, among other remedies.
Protections for NJ Consumer Fraud Whistleblowers Under CEPA
CEPA, frequently referred to as New Jersey’s “Whistleblower Act,” protects employees who report consumer fraud and prohibits employers from retaliating against these employees. Under CEPA, it is illegal to retaliate against employees who:
- Inform a supervisor or the public about an illegal activity, policy, or practice.
- Provide information or testifies during an investigation, hearing, or inquiry involving the employer.
- Provide information that the employer deceived or misrepresented a shareholder, client, or investor.
- Provide information about an activity on behalf of the employer that they believe to be illegal.
- Object to, or refuse to participate in, an activity, policy, or practice that they believe is illegal or against the best interest of public health or safety.
When a suspected violation does not involve a danger to the workforce or public at large, CEPA requires that the employee first bring their concerns to the attention of a supervisor. If a supervisor takes no action, the employee may notify the relevant agency.
Retaliation Against Consumer Fraud Whistleblowers
CEPA ensures that the employee may not be subject to any adverse employment action in connection with the reporting of the violation. Examples of whistleblower retaliation include:
- Job transfers
If you can demonstrate that your employer took any of these actions as a result of you speaking up or reporting evidence of consumer fraud, you may have a retaliation case and should speak to a New Jersey employment lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options.
Compensation for Whistleblowers Under CEPA
Any employee who suffers retaliation after reporting consumer fraud can be entitled to compensation under CEPA. This can include money for economic losses suffered from demotions or termination, recovery of past and future wages, emotional distress, attorney and legal fees, and punitive damages.
Can A Consumer Fraud Whistleblower Remain Anonymous In NJ?
Many employees want to do the right thing by coming forward about consumer fraud committed by their employer, but have concerns about confidentiality. Many whistleblowers want to know if they can remain anonymous in New Jersey. In most cases, an employee who makes an anonymous complaint will not be protected by CEPA because they did not first bring the matter to their supervisor’s attention. This is why employee protection and anti-retaliation laws are so important, and why it is critical to contact an experienced New Jersey consumer fraud attorney to discuss your options before moving forward.
An Experienced NJ Consumer Fraud Attorney Can Help You
If you believe your employer has committed consumer fraud and you are considering coming forward to report it, contact an experienced consumer fraud attorney at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. today. We can advise you on whether your employer has broken the law and give you a full explanation of your rights, options, and protections under CEPA. We can also ensure that you receive compensation for any retaliation that takes place, as well as any applicable financial rewards provided by federal or state laws.