Call for safety net to protect whistleblowers

Andrew Patrick
Andrew Patrick
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BRITISH whistleblowers need a safety net to ensure they are protected from blacklisting or other forms of retaliation, according to a Yorkshireman whose whistleblowing claim was backed by the US government.

Andrew Patrick, from Harrogate, is supporting a campaign to introduce US style rewards for UK whistleblowers to encourage more of them to come forward.

Earlier this year, the law firm Constantine Cannon LLP announced a more than $900,000 settlement on behalf of Mr Patrick in a lawsuit against Pure Collection Ltd, a Harrogate-based e-retailer of luxury cashmere and apparel goods.

This lawsuit was one of the first to be brought by a UK whistleblower in which the US Government intervened and successfully resolved the whistleblower’s False Claims Act (FCA) allegations. Mr Patrick has been awarded 18 per cent of the total settlement.

The qui tam, or whistleblower, lawsuit alleged that since 2007 the defendants had fraudulently and systematically avoided paying US customs duties on its goods shipped from the United Kingdom to customers in the United States. The defendants neither admitted nor denied liability.

Mr Patrick worked for Pure Collection from 2010 to 2014, first as a sales representative in its UK call centre and then in its UK packaging department. Mr Patrick was trained to systematically split customers’ large orders to successfully avoid paying US customs fees, saving the company millions of dollars, according to the suit.

Mr Patrick brought his allegations to the attention of US Customs and Border Protection in 2014, and later filed a whistleblower submission with the US Internal Revenue Service in 2015.

After the two initial unsuccessful attempts to alert US authorities, Mr Patrick approached Richard Pike, a solicitor-advocate and partner in Constantine Cannon’s London office, who specialises in advising whistleblowers under US whistleblower programmes.

Mr. Patrick filed his whistleblower suit in 2016 in a federal court in Maine.

Mary Inman, Mr Patrick’s lawyer, said: “Mr Patrick is the first British whistleblower to expose a UK company for evading US import duties and only the second to receive a financial reward under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. As global business expands, European whistleblowers play an increasingly vital role in alerting the US Government to fraud schemes that cross international borders.”

Pure Collection did not respond to repeated requests for comment.