Erika A. Kelton, a partner at Phillips & Cohen, has substantial experience and success representing US and international whistleblowers in cases brought under US whistleblower reward programs.
Ms. Kelton has won eight Dodd-Frank whistleblower awards for her clients through the SEC and CFTC whistleblower programs — more than any other lawyer. That includes one of the largest SEC whistleblower awards – over $32 million awarded to an international whistleblower in a case involving massive securities fraud. She secured for a separate client an SEC whistleblower award of more than $3 million.
Ms. Kelton also has set records in her work on “qui tam” (False Claims Act) whistleblower cases. Ms. Kelton represented whistleblowers in the two biggest healthcare fraud settlements ever:
A record-setting settlement by GlaxoSmithKline for $3 billion in 2012. Phillips & Cohen’s qui tam lawsuit against Glaxo filed on behalf of two whistleblower clients and a separate whistleblower lawsuit settled for a combined $1.017 billion plus a related criminal fine of $554 million for a criminal charge based on Phillips & Cohen’s case.
A whistleblower case against Pfizer Inc. for illegally marketing the painkiller, Bextra. Pfizer paid $1.8 billion in 2009 to settle that case and a related criminal fine. The settlement was the biggest piece of a global settlement of several whistleblower cases by Pfizer for $2.3 billion – which was at the time the largest healthcare fraud settlement ever in the U.S. and now is second largest after the Glaxo settlement.
But as Lawdragon noted in an article about Phillips & Cohen, “as impressive as the corporate scalps on her wall is Kelton’s mastery of the art of relating to, protecting and guiding the whistleblower.”
Ms. Kelton has been recognized for her work on behalf of whistleblowers many times. She was named to Best Lawyers’ 2022 list and recognized as a qui tam “Whistleblower Lawyer of the Year” for 2021. Lawdragon has selected her for its “500 Leading Lawyers in America” list every year since 2013. Taxpayers Against Fraud, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of whistleblowers, also has named her as a “Whistleblower Lawyer of the Year.”
Her other successful whistleblower cases include:
The IRS whistleblower claim of a confidential tax informant, known as “Mr. ABC,” who provided the Internal Revenue Service with important information about fraudulent tax shelters set up by Wall Street investment firms and who testified on the matter before the Senate Finance Committee. The complex tax schemes cost the U.S. Treasury hundreds of millions of dollars.
A whistleblower case brought on behalf of a former investment banker against numerous Wall Street banks involving IRS prohibitions against tax-exempt municipal bond arbitrage and violations of securities laws. The case, which exposed the widespread practice of “yield-burning” on Wall Street, returned more than $200 million to the U.S. Treasury.
A whistleblower lawsuit against Wall Street investment giant Mario Gabelli that alleged he and affiliated companies set up sham companies to qualify for certain telecom licenses. Mr. Gabelli and his associates paid a $130 million settlement.
As an expert in whistleblower enforcement approaches, Ms. Kelton has consulted with the U.S. Congress, the Securities Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Internal Revenue Service on the establishment and workings of the agencies’ whistleblower programs. Both the SEC and the IRS have featured her as an invited speaker at internal conferences for their attorneys and investigators to discuss more effective ways to work with whistleblowers in enforcement matters.
Ms. Kelton is active in international whistleblower matters, including matters before the UK Financial Conduct Authority. The UK Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards requested Ms. Kelton submit testimony about whistleblowing and quoted from her testimony in its report. She also has consulted on whistleblower programs with policymakers and legislators in Europe and Asia.
Ms. Kelton is frequently interviewed by journalists for her expertise in whistleblower matters involving the False Claims Act and the IRS whistleblower program, as well as the SEC whistleblower program and CFTC whistleblower program created by the Dodd-Frank Act. She often has been quoted by U.S. media – including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal – and by media in other countries, such as Valor Economico (Brazil), the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany), the BBC, The Financial Times and Australian Public Radio.
Ms. Kelton has published several articles and op-eds about whistleblower laws and programs. She also is a regular contributor to Forbes.com.
Ms. Kelton graduated from the University of California Berkeley School of Law, where she was articles editor of the California Law Review. From 1987 to 1994 she was associated with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
Ms. Kelton is on the Board of Directors and the President’s Council for Taxpayers Against Fraud, a nonprofit, public interest organization that supports and advocates on behalf of whistleblowers.
She and fellow Phillips & Cohen partner Claire M. Sylvia recently taught a course on whistleblower law at the New York University School of Law. They regularly teach a similar course at Berkeley Law at the University of California. Their courses are some of the few on whistleblower law that are taught at a major law school.
Ms. Kelton is admitted to the bar in Washington, DC, and California. She is a member of the International Bar Association.