Washington, D.C. December 5, 2016. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on December 1st to consider proposed changes to the appropriations process that would have a major impact on existing whistleblower laws.
Washington, D.C. December 1, 2016. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittees on Government Operations and Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules will hold a hearing today on proposed changes to the appropriations process that would have a major impact on existing whistleblower laws.
The hearing, “Restoring the Power of the Purse: Legislative Options,” will review H.R. 5499—The Agency Accountability Act—a bill that would restrict or prohibit executive agencies from using monies obtained as sanctions to directly pay whistleblowers the compensation they are owed under existing whistleblower reward laws. The Act would impact all federal spending financed by fees, fines, and penalties currently administered by federal agencies, and instead require that Congressional appropriations approve this spending.
The National Whistleblower Center’s (NWC) recently launched End-of-Year Campaign, Because of Whistleblowers, focuses on how whistleblowers have fought hard to uncover fraud and corruption. The NWC boasts a network of highly active supporters who help ensure that these whistleblowers are protected.
In 2016, this network of committed citizens sent tens of thousands of letters to Congress and other stakeholders on key whistleblower issues, including protecting civil rights, combating fraud, and preventing whistleblower retaliation.
Internationally recognized whistleblower attorney and NWC Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn is planning to release a fully updated version of The Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself in early 2017. First published in 2011, The Whistleblower’s Handbook is the first-ever consumer guide to whistleblowing. It sets forth twenty-one basic rules every potential whistleblower needs to know. The PEN Center USA* chose The Whistleblower’s Handbook as one of “The Top Ten Books About Whistleblowers.” The highly acclaimed guide to blowing the whistle is the only consumer resource book named to the list.
The illegal rhino horn trade is one of the most potent and corrupt in the illegal wildlife trafficking arena, resulting in the death of at least 6,000 rhinos in the last decade alone, leaving only 25,000 rhinos remaining. Rhino horn is also one of the most profitable products on the illegal wildlife black market, considered more valuable than gold and platinum.
On November 12th, Al Jazeera held a special screening of the most recent edition of its documentary series: “The Poacher’s Pipeline.” In the film, Al Jazeera investigators follow the illegal supply chain of rhino horns from the fresh kill in Africa to their sale in Asia, specifically in Vietnam and China. The investigation revealed that the rhino horn trade is largely made possible because of its consumer base, which is comprised of high-level government officials and politicians from Africa and Asia. Continue Reading
Washington, DC, November 16, 2016. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Whistleblower Program had its most successful year to date in 2016. The agency, which issued its annual report to Congress today, reports it issued awards totaling over $57 million in 2016—higher than all award amounts issued in previous years combined. The Office of the Whistleblower (OWB) received over 4,200 tips this year, which is a more than 40 percent increase in whistleblower tips since 2012. In addition, the SEC took action in its first ever stand-alone whistleblower retaliation case.
On Thursday, November 17, 2016, Stephen M. Kohn will present a free webinar on the key role whistleblowers can play in preventing illegal wildlife trafficking. This webinar will explore how whistleblowers around the world can report wildlife crime and receive monetary awards under two legal instruments, the Lacey and Endangered Species Acts, that support the provision of monetary incentives to persons who disclose information about wildlife crimes. The success of these laws has been profound, strengthening the ability of the government to detect and prosecute crime. In total, whistleblower rewards laws have resulted in over $50 billion in fines and penalties and over $3.5 billion in compensation to whistleblowers.
The National Whistleblower Center (NWC) filed several amici curiae (friend of the court) briefs this year to support whistleblowers and advocate for their protection. In particular, NWC briefs have addressed compelling legal issues including preventing attempts to weaken the False Claims Act (FCA) before the United States Supreme Court, and supporting whistleblower rights for veterans before the Federal Circuit Court.
The NWC wrote amici briefs in two major False Claims Act cases in 2016: Universal Health Services v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar, and State Farm Fire and Casualty Company v. U.S. ex rel. Rigsby. In Escobar, amici asserted that the FCA holds contractors liable not only when they defraud the government and taxpayers by violating express terms of their contract, but also when they violate implied certifications as well. In Rigsby, amici argued that the FCA’s seal provision was designed for the exclusive benefit of the Government, and mandatory dismissal for seal violations would undermine the FCA and hurt taxpayers—the intended beneficiaries of the False Claims Act.
This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in State Farm Fire and Casualty Company v. U.S. ex rel. Rigsby. Having suffered a 758-thousand-dollar jury verdict for defrauding the Government following Hurricane Katrina, State Farm is now attempting judicial gymnastics to avoid paying the judgment. State Farm is asking the Supreme Court to automatically dismiss False Claims Act cases where whistleblowers violate the FCA’s seal provision (31 U.S.C.S. § 3730(b)(2)), instead of using a balancing test—which courts in the United States have historically employed when seal violations occur—to determine the appropriate course of action.
Justice Elena Kagan honed in on a very important question during today’s argument, “…. given that the government is the beneficiary of this [seal] provision, why shouldn’t we give very significant discretion to the government?” Continue Reading
Black Friday. Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday
Washington, D.C. November 1, 2016. The National Whistleblower Center will once again participate in #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and celebrate generosity worldwide. #GivingTuesday is a collaborative effort to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. The NWC’s end-of-year campaign theme, #BecauseOfWBs, highlights the indispensible role of whistleblowers in combating corruption and fraud in a variety of sectors—including international banking, national security, wildlife trafficking, and government contracting.