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Senator Grassley Announces Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus on 25th Anniversary of the Whistleblower Protection Act

Posted in Government Whistleblowers

Today Senator Charles Grassley, the leading champion of whistleblower protection on Capitol Hill, announced that the formation of a Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus at the start of the 114thCongress. Later today he will give a speech on the floor of the Senate to highlight the importance of whistleblowers to government operations and to encourage his fellow senators to join him in the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus.

Senator Grassley’s speech marks the 25th Anniversary of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and calls for stronger laws to ensure whistleblower are protected.   Grassley said he’s creating the caucus to build a coalition of like-minded Senators who can help bring attention to the need for ongoing whistleblower protections.  Over the next six months, Grassley will be discussing the caucus with colleagues and encouraging them to join with an eye on an official start in the new Congress.

The goals of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus are to ensure “vigilant oversight” over whistleblower protection laws and to create “a culture of understanding and respecting the right to blow the whistle.”

The National Whistleblower Center released the following statement in response to Senator Grassley’s announcement:

The NWC marks the 25th Anniversary of the WPA with mixed emotions. We celebrate the tremendous work that Congress and advocacy workers have don to protect whistleblowers. The WPA would have been proven to be an important milestone in whistleblower protection if it had been properly administered.

Sadly, those who work with whistleblowers know how difficult it is to prevail in a case under the WPA despite Congress’ best intentions. Hardships and retaliation have continued to decimate civil servants who bravely step forward to expose wrongdoing.

We urge all members of Congress who are dedicated to halting the waste to taxpayer money and ensuring that government works within the law to join together in a bi-partisan effort to achieve the goals we share.  We urge Senators to join the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus and urge the members of the House of Representatives to also form a similar whistleblower caucus.

Those that fight waste, fraud and abuse in government should be honored for their patriotism.

TAKE ACTION!

Urge your Senators to join with Senator Grassley to ensure strong whistleblower protection laws and oversight by joining the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus. Also urge the members of the House of Representatives to form a similar whistleblower caucus.

Report Reveals Federal Agencies’ Non-disclosure Policies Violate the WEPA

Posted in Government Whistleblowers

A report released today by Senator Charles Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reveals that most of the fifteen executive branch departments’ nondisclosure agreement policies violate the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.  The law requires such agreements to contain an explicit statement notifying employees the agreements do not trump an employee’s rights and obligations under the law relating to communications to Congress, reporting misconduct to an Inspector General, or any other whistleblower protections.

According to the report the Treasury Department was the only one that was able to document implementation of the anti-gag provision.  Eight departments were able to document only partial implementation, and two others were unable to demonstrate even partial compliance.  Four departments, including the Justice Department, did not to respond to Grassley’s inquiry.

Senator Grassley forwarded his report to Carolyn Lerner at the Office of Special Counsel and requested that she consider adding compliance with the anti-gag statute as a criteria for the Special Counsel’s 2302(c) Certification Program.

Senator Grassley championed the anti-gag protections that were adopted in 1988 and were included in successive annual spending bills until last year.  In November 2012, the bipartisan Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act permanently codified in federal law that any violation of the anti-gag provision is a prohibited personnel practice.

In response to Sen. Grassley’s report, Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, made the following statement:

“Gag orders have a devastating impact on the public’s right to know about fraud in government.  The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act provisions must be aggressively enforced. Senator Grassley’s report is a critical first step in pushing the federal government to implement its own laws.

Federal bureaucrats want to keep their misconduct secret. Gag orders, which have a chilling effect on employees, are now illegal and any bureaucrat who attempts to have an employee sign an illegal non-disclosure agreement should be severely disciplined.”

Related links:

Report on the Implementation of Section 115(a) of the Whistleblower  Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPEA)

Op-ed, Let the sun shine in, by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

 

 

KBR’s Confidentiality Agreements Draw Congressional Scrutiny

Posted in Corporate Whistleblowers, Uncategorized

Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. John F. Tierney, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter to the CEO of KBR, one of the nation’s largest government contractors, requesting documents relating to the company’s treatment of potential whistleblowers seeking to report wrongdoing at the company.

The Congressional inquiry was triggered by a February Washington Post story revealing that KBR required employees to sign confidentiality agreements. These agreements barred employees who witnessed fraud from speaking to “ANYONE” outside of the company about their allegations without “specific authorization” from the company’s general counsel.

In the letter sent to KBR the Congressmen wrote: “The use of these confidentiality agreements could raise significant concerns if employees of federal contractors are being prohibited from disclosing allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse to government agencies, Congress, or Inspectors General. Obviously, requiring employees to clear such reports through KBR’s general counsel’s office before reporting them to the government would defeat the purpose of good government laws and whistleblower protections enacted by Congress.”

The Congressmen have requested KBR provide copies of all complaints submitted to KBR from its employees, subcontractors, or any other individuals from 2002 to present; copies of all confidentiality agreements restricting employees in any way from reporting allegations of waste, fraud, or abuse; and all policies and procedures relating to the use, application, enforcement, or waiver of confidentiality agreements in relation to internal complaints, tips, and investigations.

Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center stated “The KBR non disclosure agreements have unquestionably interfered with the ability of Congress to conduct its Constitutional oversight responsibilities. KBR received over $40 billion in taxpayer money. It is incumbent upon Congress, in a bipartisan manner, to insure every penny paid by the honest taxpayers was properly spent and to insure contractors cannot take government money with one hand and silence whistleblowers with the other.”

Related items:

Previous Post on this issue:

Action Alert:

Washington Post Reports: SEC Investigating KBR

Posted in Corporate Whistleblowers

According to a March 11 report by The Washington Post, the Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation into Halliburton’s former subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR). KBR is the largest American contractor operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, responsible for $40 billion worth of federal work.

The Washington Post reports that the SEC is looking into the claims that KBR requires employees to sign confidentiality agreements, which violate federal whistleblower laws.  These confidentiality agreements bar KBR employees from disclosing information about possible fraud, to “ANYONE” outside of the company including federal prosecutors and investigators.

This information became public last week after a federal judge overseeing a False Claims Act case against KBR ruled the confidentiality statements, collected during internal corporate fraud investigations, must be turned over to lawyers suing on behalf of a whistleblower.

An SEC spokesman declined to confirm or deny the existence of an investigation. However KBR’s spokesperson indicated that the SEC had sent the company a request for documents.

Read the full article.

CA Supreme Court Upholds Physician’s Rights Under State Whistleblower Law

Posted in News

Last month the California Supreme Court issued a ruling in a case involving physician who filed a whistleblower lawsuit challenging the termination of his hospital privileges. In Fahlen v. Sutter Central Valley Hospitals, the court upheld a physician’s right to file a whistle-blower lawsuit before exhausting the peer-review process.

Read more about the case: Ruling in Physician Whistle-Blower Case Could Have Far-Reaching Consequences

Obama Administration Uses Privacy Act To Limit Congressional Oversight

Posted in Government Whistleblowers

timesGrassley1The Washington Times reports today that  the Obama Administration is accused of using a broad interpretation of federal privacy statutes to block Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley from pursuing investigations such as “‘Fast and Furious’ gun-running scandal to the questioning of judicial nominees,” the article states.

The article details how the Department of Justice invoked the Privacy Act to  bar the Senator  from meetings that were part of the “Fast and Furious” investigation and later to refuse to answer questions to DOJ appointees in nomination hearings.

Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, is quoted in the article stating:

“Sen. Grassley has forged a reputation since the 1980s as being completely bipartisan on oversight — he’s held every single president accountable from Reagan to Obama. Going after Grassley [by way of the Privacy Act] is just demeaning to a guy who is known in the whistleblower community as their No. 1 advocate. It’s a real step back for oversight.”

Read the full article: Hill watchdog Grassley blocked by administration privacy claims

SEC Whistleblower Awards List Updated

Posted in Corporate Whistleblowers
The SEC Office of the Whistleblower post Notices of Covered Action where a final judgment or order, by itself or together with other prior judgments or orders in the same action issued after July 21, 2010, results in monetary sanctions exceeding $1 million.Subject to the Final Rules, individuals who voluntarily provided the Commission with original information after July 21, 2010 that led to the successful enforcement of a covered action listed below are eligible to apply for a whistleblower award.Once a Notice of Covered Action is posted, individuals have 90 calendar days to apply for an award.

View the updated list below. Previous award postings can be found here.

NOTICE NO. ACTION NOTICE DATE CLAIM DUE DATE

2014-22
SEC v. Burton Douglas Morriss, Acartha Group, LLC, MIC VII, LLC, Acartha Technology Partners, LP, and Gryphon Investments III, LLC
Case number: 12-cv-00080 (United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri)
Case filed: January 17, 2012
Qualifying Judgment/Order: February 26, 2014
3/7/2014 6/5/2014
2014-21 SEC v. Diamond Foods, Inc.
Case number: 14-cv-00123 (United States District Court for the Northern District of California)
Case filed: January 9, 2014
Qualifying Judgment/Order: January 21, 2014
02/24/2014 05/25/2014
2014-20 SEC v. David Blech and Margaret Chassman
Case number: 12-cv-03703 (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York)
Case filed: May 9, 2012
Qualifying Judgment/Order: August 22, 2013
02/24/2014 05/25/2014
2014-19 SEC v. Kareem Serageldin, David Higgs, Faisal Siddiqui and Salmaan Siddiqui
Case number: 12-cv-00796 (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York)
Case filed: February 1, 2012
Qualifying Judgment/Order: January 21, 2014
02/24/2014 05/25/2014
2014-18 SEC v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Company
Case number: 13-cv-02279 (United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois)
Case filed: December 20, 2013
Qualifying Judgment/Order: January 21, 2014
02/24/2014 05/25/2014
2014-17 SEC v. Mark A. Lefkowitz, Compass Capital Group, Inc., Mark A. Lopez, Unico, Inc., Steven R. Peacock, Shane H. Traveller, and Advanced Cell Technology, Inc.
Case number: 12-cv-01210 (United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida)
Case filed: May 30, 2012
Qualifying Judgment/Order: December 30, 2013
02/24/2014 05/25/2014
2014-16 SEC v. Thomas Rubin, Christopher Scott, BGLR Enterprises, LLC, and E-Info Solutions LLC
Case number: 11-cv-01466 (United States District Court for the Central District of California)
Case filed: September 22, 2011
Qualifying Judgment/Order: January 22, 2014
02/24/2014 05/25/2014
2014-15 SEC v. Uriel Sharef, Ulrich Bock, Carlos Sergi, Stephan Signer, Herbert Steffen, Andres Truppel, and Bernd Regendantz
Case number: 11-cv-09073 (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York)
Case filed: December 13, 2011
Qualifying Judgment/Order: February 4, 2014
02/24/2014 05/25/2014
2014-14 SEC v. Joseph Paul Zada and Zada Enterprises, LLC
Case number: 10-cv-14498 (United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan)
Case filed: November 10, 2010
Qualifying Judgment/Order: January 31, 2014
02/24/2014 05/25/2014
2014-13 In the Matter of Scottrade, Inc.
Administrative Proceeding File No.: 3-15702
Case filed: January 29, 2014
Qualifying Judgment/Order: January 29, 2014
02/24/2014 05/25/2014
2014-12 In the Matter of Western Asset Management Company
Administrative Proceeding File No.: 3-15689
Case filed: January 27, 2014
Qualifying Judgment/Order: January 27, 2014
02/24/2014 05/25/2014
2014-11 In the Matter of Alcoa Inc.
Administrative Proceeding File No.: 3-15689
Case filed: January 9, 2014
Qualifying Judgment/Order: January 9, 2014
02/24/2014 05/25/2014
2014-10 In the Matter of KPMG LLP
Administrative Proceeding File No.: 3-15687
Case filed: January 24, 2014
Qualifying Judgment/Order: January 24, 2014
02/24/2014 05/25/2014
2014-9 In the Matter of Credit Suisse Group AG
Administrative Proceeding File No.: 3-15763
Case filed: February 21, 2014
Qualifying Judgment/Order: February 21, 2014
02/24/2014 05/25/2014

Big Win for Corporate Whistleblowers at Supreme Court

Posted in Corporate Whistleblowers

SOX whistleblower protection covers mutual fund industry

Washington, D.C. March 4, 2014. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in Lawson v. FMR, LLC, that contractors and subcontractors of publicly traded companies are fully protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act for corporate whistleblowers.

Significantly, in today’s decision the Supreme Court explicitly held that investment advisors and other “independent contractors” employed in the mutual fund industry are fully protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s whistleblower provisions. The Supreme Court’s ruling reversed a lower court holding excluding the mutual fund industry from protection under Sarbanes-Oxley.

In her majority opinion, on page 20, Justice Ginsburg explained that her ruling “avoids insulating the entire mutual fund industry from” the corporate whistleblower law.  Justice Ginsburg also explained that these mutual funds manage $14.7 trillion dollars, on behalf of “nearly 94 million investors.”

 Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, released the following statement regarding the importance of this decision:

“This is a big win for corporate whistleblowers.  This is a big win for every person who invests money through mutual funds.  The Supreme Court closed a potentially devastating loop hole in corporate whistleblower protection. By ruling that contractors and subcontractors of publicly traded companies are fully protected under the corporate whistleblower provisions, the Court has put an end to the popular shell game which large companies use try to silence whistleblowers.”

 The National Whistleblower Center filed a friend of the court brief before the Supreme Court in this case and has been instrumental in defending the Sarbanes-Oxley Act from corporate attempts to undermine its effectiveness.

Mr. Kohn is available for further comment on this decision. Emailmjw@whistleblowers.org to set up an interview.

Read the decision:  Lawson v. FMR, LLC

Joint Senate/House Report Slams FDA Surveillance

Posted in Government Whistleblowers

Washington, D.C. February 26, 2014.  Today Representative Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Senator Charles Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee issued a highly important Joint Staff Report carefully analyzing the FDA’s practice of monitoring email communications sent by whistleblowers.

The Joint Staff Report harshly criticized FDA’s practices and vindicated the allegations raised by FDA whistleblowers who exposed the illegally monitoring practices.  The Joint Staff Report concluded that the FDA spied on its employees “without regard” for their “rights to communicate with Congress.” [p. 7].    The Congressional report also found that the FDA failed to “manage” their “monitoring program responsibly,” and that the FDA’s email monitoring policies “do not provide safeguards to protect whistleblowers from retaliation.”  [Report pp. 7, 10].

A copy of the complete report: “Limitless Surveillance At The FDA: Protecting The Rights Of Federal Whistleblowers” 

Read The Washington Post article: Lawmakers’ report: FDA monitoring of staff e-mails may have violated whistleblowing law

Washington Times Reports: FBI Kept Information From 9/11 Commission

Posted in Government Whistleblowers
WashTimesFBI2014

Washington, D.C. February 26, 2014.  In an exclusive report, The Washington Times reports that important information regarding the FBI’s counterterrorist achievements was never given to the members 9/11 Commission. The fact that the FBI had placed a human source in direct contact with Osama bin Laden in 1993 and ascertained that the al Qaeda leader was looking to finance terrorist attacks in the United States, was revealed in court testimony in a little-noticed employment dispute case.

The Agent responsible for finding and cultivating this source, and successfully thwarting terrorist threats in California, is FBI Supervisory Special Agent Bassem Youssef.  Mr. Youssef was the FBI’s highest ranking counterterrorism official to “blow the whistle” on the FBI’s gross mismanagement of the War on Terror. He was also the highest-ranking FBI agent who is fluent Arabic.  In spite of his qualifications, after the 9/11 attacks the FBI irresponsibly questioned his loyalties due to his national origin and blacklisted him.   When he alerted a Member of Congress and the Director of the FBI to the discrimination he faced, Mr. Youssef was subjected to more severe retaliation, including the denial of promotions, punitive transfers and stripping him of all his prior operational counterterrorism duties, which had resulted in the successful infiltration detailed in today’s Washington Times.  The retaliation against Mr. Youssef continues to this day.

The National Whistleblower Center issued an Action Alert calling on President Obama to give credit to Supervisory Special Agent Youssef for his work in one of the most significant triumphs in the war on terror and to tell the FBI to stop the retaliation against him. Please join with the NWC and take action on this critical issue.

Take Action!

 Read: EXCLUSIVE: FBI had human source in contact with bin Laden as far back as 1993