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Whistleblowers have sparked historic investigations and legal action for some of the country’s largest institutions. From Jeffrey Wigand exposing Big Tobacco to Edward Snowden going public about the U.S. government, the act of blowing the whistle can have major consequences for business and politics. But whistleblowing extends far beyond the headlines. In 2017, billions of dollars were recovered by U.S. investigators in fraud cases that were set off by whistleblowers. Writing for the New Yorker, Sheelah Kolhatkar explains the legal process for whistleblowers, known as qui tam, which partners the informant with FBI investigators. She spoke to Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal about the pain, fear and loneliness that whistleblowers face.

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.

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Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal