After a big U.S. Justice Department settlement--after the speeches, the press releases, the commentary--attention invariably turns to the people who first blew the whistle. It's no different in the case of Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), which this week announced a $2.2 billion settlement and misdemeanor plea in a longstanding probe of its Risperdal marketing.
And this time around, the whistleblowers are collecting a record amount of money for their roles in the prosecution. The J&J informants will together collect $167.7 million, with $112 million going to Pennsylvania district whistleblowers. Another $27.7 million goes to those in the Massachusetts district, and the remaining $28 million to the sole whistleblower in California, the DoJ says.
As CNNMoney reports, that California participant, a former employee of the J&J subsidiary Scios, first sued J&J in 2005 under the False Claims Act. Since then, Joe Strom helped prosecutors prep for depositions in the case. Other whistleblowers actually went undercover to help prosecutors build their case against J&J. Former sales rep Judith Doetterl actually brought a recording device into a Risperdal sales conference in Texas.
"Here's a 34-year-old woman with a tremendous job, putting her career on the line and wearing a wire, all in order to do the right thing," Doetterl's lawyer, Daniel Oliverio, told the Buffalo News.
Oliverio called Doetterl's participation "gutsy," and it's hard to disagree. But in these cases, whistleblowers have come in for criticism, perhaps inspired by resentment of their share of the settlement. Oliverio suggests that the multimillion-dollar payments his clients will collect are justified. The whistleblowers "accomplished what they set out to do," he told the Buffalo News. "They righted a wrong in the marketplace."
Special Report: Pharma's Top 11 Marketing Settlements - J&J