The Economic Community of West African States’, or ECOWAS, recently held a weeklong anti-corruption meeting in Monrovia, Liberia. Attendees included 13 West African countries, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Arms, and international partners. As Tunde Ajisomo, ECOWAS ambassador to Liberia noted, “Fighting corruption is everybody’s business, but we need to put in place appropriate legislation.” Ajisomo also underscored the importance of supporting whistleblowers, urging, “It is important that we protect whistle-blowers, as the role they play is critical.” The National Whistleblower Center salutes the efforts of ECOWAS member States to strengthen legal protections for whistleblowers, making the world safer for those who report corruption.
In a brief 3-page report dated September 15, 2016, the House Intelligence Committee concluded that Edward Snowden “was not a whistleblower” because there were “laws and regulations in effect at the time” that “afforded him protection” and he failed to exercise those whistleblower rights. The Committee report specifically cited the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998 (IC WPA) that does permit employees, like Snowden, to make disclosures of wrongdoing to Congress if certain other conditions are met. Continue Reading
Today, the National Whistleblower Center filed an Amicus (friend of the court) brief in State Farm Fire and Casualty Company v. U.S. ex rel. Rigsby. Having suffered a 758-million-dollar jury verdict for defrauding the Government following Hurricane Katrina, State Farm is now attempting judicial gymnastics to avoid paying the judgment.
The question in this case is whether the harshest sanction available to a court to police its order sealing a case (i.e. dismissal) should be automatically applied, regardless of the intent of the party committing the infraction, harm caused to other parties, interest of the Government or nature of the violation itself. In its amicus brief, the National Whistleblower Center argues against such an inflexible rule that is also contrary to Congress’s intent.
State Farm is asking the Supreme Court to read into the FCA a severe sanction for those who violate the seal provision (31 U.S.C.S. § 3730(b)(2)). The 5th Circuit decision ruled against mandatory dismissal and in favor of a flexible balancing test that prioritizes the interests of the government, holding that a violation of the seal requirement did not warrant dismissal of this case since the government was not harmed by the disclosure and the whistleblowers did not act in bad faith. See United States ex rel. Rigsby v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 794 F.3d 457, 465 (5th Cir. 2015).
The FCA is America’s most important—and successful—anti-fraud law, and its seal provision was designed for the exclusive benefit of the Government. Mandatory dismissal would undermine the FCA and hurt taxpayers—the intended beneficiaries of the False Claims Act. The NWC’s Executive Director Steve Kohn noted, “This is another attempt by the Chamber of Commerce to undermine the False Claims Act and protect corrupt government contractors who rip off the taxpayers from accountability. It is time to stop shooting the messenger.”
Today marks the start of the third Our Ocean conference hosted by Secretary of State John F. Kerry. The conference, which is being held in Washington, DC from September 15-16, 2016, will focus on marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries, and marine pollution, among other pressing concerns.
As Secretary Kerry acknowledged, “The richness and diversity of our marine resources are being decimated by reckless and illicit fishing practices.” Under Secretary of State Catherine Novelli stressed the importance of using technology to improve enforcement efforts at ports, noting that, “…[with robust enforcement] it becomes much more difficult to actually make a living selling illegally caught fish and that’s going to deter people from illegal fishing.”
Washington, D.C. September 1, 2016. Today, the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge announced the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) as a Grand Prize Winner. The Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, an initiative of USAID in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC, is finding new, innovative solutions to the most intractable issues in the fight against wildlife trafficking. Continue Reading
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced today that it is requesting public comment on proposed amendments to the Whistleblower Rules found in Part 165 of the CFTC’s Regulations. The CFTC announcement states:
“The amendments would enhance the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and make related changes to clarify staff authority to administer the whistleblower program. The proposal will also strengthen the CFTC’s anti-retaliation authority to provide whistleblowers protection from retaliation through CFTC enforcement action under the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA). Continue Reading
Washington, D.C. August 29, 2016. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently approved the National Whistleblower Center’s application for membership. The IUCN is the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network.
There are more effective ways to protest lax enforcement of financial fraud
Last week, it was widely reported that Eric Ben-Artzi, a Deutsche Bank whistleblower stated he will refuse a portion of his whistleblower award from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s whistleblower program. Mr. Ben-Artzi had worked at the bank as a vice president and he tells an all too-familiar story of a loyal corporate insider reporting serious fraud internally only to be betrayed by corporate compliance officials and then getting fired by management.
Mr. Ben-Artzi next reported the wrongdoing to the SEC and later formally asked the SEC in 2015 to grant him a monetary award for helping the SEC to fine Deutsche Bank. After being awarded more than $8 million he says he will refuse to accept a portion of that whistleblower award (but allow his ex-wife and attorney to collect a portion of his share) as a form of protest to the SEC’s collusion with Wall Street.
However, refusing the award makes little sense, because there are more effective ways the whistleblower can protest lax enforcement and corporate fraud. Continue Reading
The following is an editorial from the National Whistleblower Center:
On August 3, 2016 the U.S. Tax Court ruled that tax whistleblowers were entitled to a reward based on monies collected in criminal fines and penalties. This landmark decision reversed the position of the Department of Treasury that severely limited the “collected proceeds” upon which a whistleblower reward could be based. Continue Reading