Location: Michigan, US

Since January I've worked at a nonprofit organization that I've loved my entire life. My whole family is very supportive of this org. By taking this job, I was fulfilling not only my own dreams, but those of my family to help make my country a better place.

On 11/13, I had to resign from my job... and I'm not blameless here unfortunately...

This month, the org rolled out a new strategy nationwide and we (our attorneys) filed several lawsuits in support of this strategy. My boss tasked me with providing analyses (I was working as a data scientist) to back up a couple of the lawsuits. They'd already been filed, so I just needed to back up the claims our attorneys made in court.

The problems started here. I couldn't find anything to back up those claims... I tried umpteen transformations, slicing the data every which way and came up with nothing they could use. I told my boss I couldn't find anything. But he and his boss both insisted I must be able to find something. So I figured it was a test. I was on a contract ending 11/30 and I thought maybe they were trying to decide which contractors to keep on.

The next day or day after I was able to put something together... but there's a problem... Our attorneys alleged in court that fraudulent activities occurred in one region, and I had to merge data from another, entirely different region to make it appear that fraudulent activities occurred... to show a discrepancy when there was actually none... meaningless analysis akin to showing that there is more gas in the tank of an F-150 than capacity in the tank of a Focus--even if it's technically true, it's not evidence of illegal activity whatsoever.

I tried to explain this to my boss... I started the explanation but he cut me off... he told me I had done great work and said he didn't care how I got there. I tried to interject... but I couldn't get a word in...

I know I messed up really bad... right away a knot formed in my stomach... I haven't been able to sleep properly since.

The next day was Friday the 13th as it would happen, I resigned with two weeks notice for courtesy... per the org's data protection procedures, they pay me for two weeks but I was immediately dismissed. ie I didn't have access to any of the org's data after I resigned.

I'm still terrified... Does it sound like I did anything illegal? I think this court case may have been dismissed already, if it was dismissed, does that mean I could still be charged with something? Or am I safe now?

And now I keep thinking of other things... in the first week of November, I accidentally discovered a discrepancy between the org's internal data feed and the public data feed. The public feed is used by our competitors and government agencies, so any discrepancy is pretty serious. Based on our internal data feed, our attorneys were alleging that a single anomalous activity occurred at a specific time... but the public data feed showed instead a series of normal activities occurring over a wider period of time. I stumbled upon this discrepancy by accident--I was using the public data feed for another, unrelated analysis--but I notified my boss immediately... my boss only told me that he was "aware of the discrepancy". Later, we (our attorneys) built a court case based on the internal data feed... I didn't work on that case, but I knew we submitted inaccurate and made false claims... Now I can think of other instances like this too...

I just don't know what to do... should I get a lawyer? What kind of lawyer should I look for?

  • 2
    By the way, posting a confession on the internet with enough detail that a person familiar with the case would be able to identify it is not a great plan...this is why you should consult a lawyer for confidential legal advice.
    – Ryan M
    Nov 23, 2020 at 14:39

1 Answer 1


Does it sound like I did anything illegal?

Some details of your description are confusing, but it suggests that you knowingly participated in forgery or fabrication of evidence. Furthermore, the possibility that "this court case may have been dismissed already" does not prevent the non-profit from using in other proceedings the false evidence you produced. Depending on the outcome of those proceedings, your actions could be ruled as fraud on the court.

You mention that the non-profit filed those lawsuits this month. Based on that, the conjecture that the court(s) may have dismissed the lawsuits is premature. In fact, it is unlikely that defendants' deadline for filing responsive pleadings has elapsed, let alone that a court has made any rulings on the dispute(s).

am I safe now?

Not at all. Hence it is crucial that you do damage control asap. Sooner or later the crooks you call "our attorneys" could turn against you in their attempt to save face and/or to shift to you the non-profit's liability for its fraudulent conduct. For instance, MCR 2.112(K)(3)(a) provides that

[a] party against whom a claim is asserted may give notice that a nonparty is wholly or partially at fault.

The aforementioned liability could entail paying, inter alia, the adversary's attorney fees, which typically are quite significant.

I just don't know what to do.

First, you need to ascertain the jurisdiction, venue, and status of these cases. Your mention of Michigan is insufficient to discern whether the controversies are litigated in state court or federal court, more so since you mention lawsuits nationwide.

Having ascertained that, your safest option is to file [as nonparty] a motion with an affidavit whereby you make the appropriate disclosures. Beware that you might inadvertently convey more culpability than you have or make a detrimentally excessive disclosure. This is why you might want to get an attorney to help you on this, notwithstanding that I usually discourage people from dealing with lawyers.

A cheaper alternative (i.e., to avoid paying an attorney) is to contact the defendants and/or their lawyers and file [in court] your disclosure through them. The risk inherent to that approach is that you basically would rely on entities who owe no fiduciary duty to you and whose priorities have nothing to do with protecting you. They might even strategically decline to your affidavit, whence you would remain almost as vulnerable as if you failed to mend your involvement in the forgery. Never expect much integrity in the litigation business.

All your interactions ought to be in writing. That way you could disprove others' falsehoods.

As for "our attorneys", you should report them to the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission (or, accordingly, its federal equivalent). Validating the merits of this non-profit's claims prior to filing lawsuits nationwide is an essential step the attorneys knowingly omitted. This omission in and of itself would warrant a penalization. The severity of their malpractice would be greater if there is a finding that they themselves encouraged the fraudulent conduct in which you took part.

That aside, your description is unclear as to why you resigned. Therefore, one cannot ascertain whether you have a viable claim of constructive [wrongful] termination. See MCL 408.478(1). If you do have such claim, you will need to follow the steps provided in MCL 408.481. This is known as exhausting the administrative remedies, which most often is required prior to filing suit for wrongful termination. I have seen employment cases dismissed in Michigan courts because the plaintiff's attorney unjustifiably skipped this prerequisite.

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