News outlets around the United States have picked up and expanded upon an Associated Press story about the whistleblower complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lodged against Facebook. The story has also been picked up internationally, including publications in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
Today marks the 100-day countdown to National Whistleblower Day, celebrated each year on July 30th.
National Whistleblower Day commemorates the passing of America’s first whistleblower law on July 30th, 1778. This visionary action, taken during the height of the American Revolution, stands as a testament to the importance of whistleblowing in U.S. history.
“What would you do if you were a young professional working at your dream job, and you discover that your employer was lying to the public, promoting a disastrous foreign war, and steadily expanding a weapons program that threatened to destroy human life on earth?”
Daniel Ellsberg faced this question himself multiple times in his life. He posed the same question to the audience during his April 10th talk at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and in his new book, The Doomsday Machine. Ellsberg continued that he believes there are currently thousands of government employees looking at the prospect of nuclear war, whether or not they recognized this sentence as applicable to them.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a big decision for whistleblowers in Bailets v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, 2018 WL 1516785 (Pa. 2018). The Court ruled that noneconomic damages are compensable under Pennsylvania’s whistleblower law.
Ralph Bailets was a former Manager of Financial Systems and Reporting with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. During his tenure, he became concerned about the government contractor Ciber Inc., which was politically-connected to leaders of the Commission. When competing for one infrastructure project, Ciber offered the most expensive bid, yet still was chosen for the contract. As Ciber struggled to perform the contract, Bailets took the issue to his supervisor. Bailet’s supervisor initially warned him that Ciber had friends in high places, and later advised colleagues that Bailet “should be kept on a short lease.” He was fired shortly thereafter.
In his testimony before Congress last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg received tough questions from members of Congress about wildlife trafficking and the illegal ivory trade on his two-billion user social media site.
At the Joint Senate Committee Hearing, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) referenced a recent Time article examining illicit wildlife crime on Facebook, stating, “wildlife traffickers are continuing to use Facebook tools to advertise illegal sales of protected animal parts.” Zuckerberg responded, “we’re going to have more than 20,000 people at the company working on security and content review.”
A delegation from countries including India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, visited the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) today to learn about U.S. whistleblower reward laws and their role in cracking down on fraud both domestically and internationally. The visit was facilitated by the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), an initiative of the U.S. Department of State.
An AP news story reports that an anonymous whistleblower has filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleging that Facebook is facilitating and profiting from illegal wildlife trafficking on its social media platform. The anonymous whistleblower’s attorneys at Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto, LLP, (KKC) issued a press release and statements from the whistleblower. The full press release can be read here.
In a recent interview with the AARP, Attorney General Sessions took a strong stance against Medicare fraud. Sessions stated that it’s time to consider taking Medicare fraud as seriously as the war on drugs (certainly an issue Attorney General Sessions believes to be of paramount importance).
Medicare fraud is a serious issue. It is estimated that 10% of Medicare funds are lost to fraud and waste, totaling approximately $16.2 billion. This suggests that billions of dollars, which should be directed to funding health care for our seniors, are instead going to fraudsters taking advantage of American taxpayers and the elderly.
The Hindustan Times has recently published a story on a 60-ton illegal timber seizure in Maharashtra, India that was initiated by a whistleblower. Since May 2017, over 500 tons of illegally-cut timber have been seized by authorities in the west-central Indian state. The value of the timber seized over the past 11 months is an estimated 20 million Indian rupees, or approximately $308,000 USD.
The tip-off led to not only the seizure of 30 tons each of teak and khair wood, but also the closure of an illegal saw mill that was functioning as a timber depot. The seizure demonstrates the powerful role whistleblowers play in combatting the illicit timber trade.
Today, the U.S. Department of Justice officially dismissed their appeal of case Whistleblower 21276-13W and 21277-13W v. CIR, Case Nos. 17-1119 and 1120 (D.C. Cir.), marking a big win for IRS whistleblowers. Below is a statement from the whistleblowers’ attorneys.
The law firms of Zerbe, Miller, Fingeret, Frank & Jadav, PC (ZMF); Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto (KKC) and Robert Amsel, Esq. are pleased to announce today a key victory for tax whistleblowers with the filing of a joint stipulation for dismissal of the government’s appeal in the cases of Whistleblower 21276-13W and 21277-13W v. CIR, Case Nos. 17-1119 and 1120 (D.C. Cir.). The case was scheduled for oral argument on April 9, 2018 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It had pitted the U.S. Department of Justice and IRS against two whistleblowers whose information has led to $54.131 million in criminal penalties and civil forfeitures awarded against a major Swiss bank. The DOJ and IRS were arguing that the tax whistleblower law did not apply to criminal tax cases that resulted in payments of fines and civil forfeitures.