Book Review: Grisham’s “The Whistler” by Florida Business Attorney Adam Rabin
The hype is upon us with the release of John Grisham’s new legal thriller, “The Whistler.” While it feels like yesterday when I was a law student and could not stop turning the pages of “The Firm,” I am particularly excited for Grisham’s new release in a different way. First, this Grisham novel is set in Florida. Second, Grisham focuses on one of my firm’s areas of practice: whistleblower law. Here is how Amazon has summarized the book:
This book may be the “most electrifying novel of the year, a high-stakes thrill ride through the darkest corners of the Sunshine State.” The book speaks to how our judges are expected to be honest and wise and that their integrity and impartiality are the keys to our judicial system. The judicial system, however, is shaken when a judge takes a bribe.
A previously disbarred lawyer traveling under a false identity, Greg Myers, claims to know of a Florida judge who has received millions of dollars in bribes and was secretly invested in the construction of a large casino on Native American land financed by the mafia.
Myers wants to put a stop to it and his only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and attempt to collect millions under Florida’s whistleblower laws. Myers files a complaint with the “Board on Judicial Conduct.” The case is assigned to Lacy Stoltz, an investigator and lawyer, who believes that this case could be particularly dangerous. The case not only proves dangerous, it proves deadly.
In true Grisham fashion, the story sounds riveting. But beyond the entertainment value, I am curious whether the book’s notoriety will impact real-life whistleblowers. If the book becomes another expected best seller, will more whistleblowers begin reporting illegal or fraudulent conduct they have witnessed?
That is a hard question to answer but the more that whistleblower laws, and the financial incentives for whistleblowers, are promoted, the more likely people will be to report illegal and fraudulent conduct and claims. As we all know, much of our society is greatly influenced by entertainment and media. If a Grisham novel can glorify whistleblowers, notwithstanding the risks of serving as one, it is likely that more whistleblowers will report wrongdoing.
Overall, publicizing whistleblowers and whistleblower laws is a positive because it educates the public about statutes that, but for the financial incentives, likely would leave illegal and fraudulent conduct unreported. One type of whistleblower law is the qui tam statutes that exist under federal and state law, which reward whistleblowers for reporting fraud committed on the government.
In sum, I expect that more successful the “The Whistler” becomes, including the possible movie, the more that real-life whistleblowers are likely to become aware of and educate themselves on whistleblower laws. This is likely to lead to more reporting of illegal and fraudulent conduct that financially rewards whistleblowers. Because the overarching purpose of whistleblower laws is to provide an incentive to whistleblowers for the reporting of illegal and fraudulent conduct that otherwise would go unreported, I anticipate that Grisham’s new book will be a win-win: it will make for a great weekend stationed on the sofa and it will lead more potential whistleblowers to inquire about their legal rights.