The Associated Press is out with a story on upcoming changes to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) whistleblower program.

A federal agency is moving with little fanfare to revamp one of the most successful whistleblower programs in the government, alarming advocates who warn the changes will set back efforts to police Wall Street and punish corporate fraud.   

Stephen M. Kohn, chair of the NWC board, told AP that the changes would “destroy the program.”

The proposal would add additional reporting requirements and allow the SEC to cap some awards.The U.S. Chamber of Commerce told AP that the proposal is a small but important step toward stemming “large number of low-quality complaints advanced by … bounty seekers more concerned with enriching themselves than truly protecting investors.”

The NWC has been monitoring these proposals and filed the first of several comments on the changes in December. At that time, the organization submitted the results of research it had conducted on SEC awards, which included a look at how many cases are rejected.

Continue Reading Changes to SEC whistleblower rules would “destroy the program”

FBI whistleblower Michael German writes in today’s Washington Post about flaws in the system designed to protect intelligence community whistleblowers.

The intelligence agencies successfully lobbied for exemptions from whistleblower protections by arguing that these complicated reporting processes are necessary to protect classified information. But this is wrong on two counts. First, intelligence community whistleblowers and the members and staff of the House Intelligence Committee all hold security clearances and know how to properly handle classified information. The idea that they would suddenly forget their training when faced with a whistleblower complaint is specious.

Second, the process doesn’t prevent leaks; it encourages them. Frustrated by a system that appears designed to block reports of abuse from getting to the proper policymakers, and lacking real protections against retaliation, many whistleblowers decide it is safer and more effective to go directly to the press.

In the Post piece, he cites the case of FBI whistleblower special agent Jane Turner, who followed the reporting rules and was rewarded with retaliation.

More from German At the Brennan Center for Justice.

(W)histleblowers have rights that need protection, and some level of anonymity helps protect them. Not publicly naming them may help avoid permanent career ramifications and the abuse and threats that might come from people outside the government. But the truth is that those that would engage in official retaliation likely already had a pretty good idea who was concerned enough about the president’s conduct to report it to the inspector general.

And the reporting avenues required by the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act make it easier for agency managers to identify whistleblowers, so the system is designed to fail when it comes to protecting anonymity. Intelligence employees would be less likely to be identified if they could speak directly to their elected representatives without going to the inspector general first…

I am sure in this polarized political era the whistleblowers knew that reporting presidential misconduct was going to put a target on their back, but they made the courageous decision to step forward despite the personal consequences. 

On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on Friday called for the first whistleblower’s unmasking.

“Why don’t we know who this whistleblower is?” Jordan told reporters at the Capitol. “They deserve protection, but … they’re not entitled to anonymity,”

So, it’s no surprise that two late night comics ended up with Masked Singer as Masked Whistleblower bits.

 

 

 

  • Almost all of the money management or securities firms on Wall Street “entrusted with the life savings of their clients lie, cheat and steal one way or another.”

Not the kind of thing you might expect to read in Forbes, but columnist and former whistleblower Edward Siedle offers a lively column this week inviting others in the finance industry to “join the whistleblower revolution.”

If you work on Wall Street in the money management or securities industries—like I used to—you should serious consider becoming an SEC whistleblower. Why? Because almost all firms in these industries that are entrusted with the life savings of their clients lie, cheat and steal one way or another. If you don’t already know this, you’re probably new to the business. You’ll find out soon enough, like I did early in my career as the Compliance Director of a global asset manager.

He writes that the terms “lie, cheat and steal,” are rarely heard on Wall Street.

Money management lawyers and securities regulators typically use sterile, colorless terms such as misrepresentations, failures to disclose and mischaracterizations as to the nature, sources and amounts of fees, conflicts of interest involving self-dealing and fiduciary breaches.

Continue Reading Whistleblowing, over here and over there

Harvard Law School professor Terri Gerstein writes that the case of the IC whistleblower is strangely familiar to her.

A worker learns of brazen violations of law and feels compelled to speak up. The boss and his buddies go bananas, demanding to know the worker’s identity, making veiled or explicit threats, disparaging the worker’s credibility…

Terri Gerstein

Gerstein is director of the State and Local Enforcement Project at the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program. Writing in The American Prospect, she describes what she’s seen in her years of enforcing workplace laws: A fast food is worker fired after reporting a gas leak to the fire department. An airport skycap reported fired the day after appearing at a press conference about minimum wage violation. Countless examples of workers being pressured to stay quiet about sexual harassment.

These examples point to the need for better protections for workers who report serious illegality. The focus on these high-profile whistleblowers should be a catalyst for strengthening whistleblower laws in general, which are currently a patchwork.

Protections vary from statute to statute and from state to state. Ideally, these laws would include strong protection against retaliation; confidentiality; standing for whistleblowers to bring their own lawsuits; and finally, incentives for coming forward. These goals are not unrealistic; the False Claims Act, for example, allows people reporting fraud against the government to file their own lawsuits. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service have paid millions of dollars to whistleblowers who have provided original information leading to successful enforcement actions. Continue Reading Outspoken workers from the shop floor to the C-suite are not always protected by whistleblower laws

by Elizabeth C. Tippett

from The Conversation 

It has somehow become sort of normal to use the workplace to protest social issues unrelated to the job itself. This was something almost unheard of even five years ago.

Liz Tippett

The latest example came on Sept. 20 as more than 1,000 Amazon employees staged a walkout over the retailer’s “inaction” on climate change. In recent months, there has also been unrest among Walmart employees over gun sales and protests by Google and Microsoft workers over military use of their software. And of course, there’s Colin Kaepernick and other professional athletes who used the field – a football player’s office – to protest racialized police violence.

The workplace used to be the very last place you would want to bring attention to social issues, however important. That’s because the office or factory isn’t a democracy where activism is protected. To a workplace scholar like me, what’s really interesting is how employees are increasingly willing to undertake this risky form of protest – and how employers are adapting. Continue Reading Why whistleblower laws won’t protect employees who use the workplace for activism

As EU officials move toward better protection for whistleblowers, they are likely watching how our system is holding up. In April, the EU Parliament passed a much-needed law that would shield whistleblowers from retaliation. It also created “safe channels” to allow them to report breaches of EU law. Today, Transparency International’s released an analysis and recommendations designed to help EU nations adopt “best-practice national laws that will effectively protect whistleblowers and support anti-corruption efforts in their country.”

Like they do here, according to 90 people who should know.

From: An Open Letter to the American People

We are former national security officials who proudly served in a wide array of roles throughout the U.S. Government. We are writing about the Intelligence Community whistleblower’s lawful disclosure, which was recently made public. While the identity of the whistleblower is not publicly known, we do know that he or she is an employee of the U.S. Government. As such, he or she has by law the right—and indeed the responsibility—to make known, through appropriate channels, indications of serious wrongdoing. That is precisely what this whistleblower did; and we applaud the whistleblower not only for living up to that responsibility but also for using precisely the channels made available by federal law for raising such concerns.

Continue Reading Ninety national security experts agree: “A responsible whistleblower makes all Americans safer”

Joe Davidson of the Washington Post contacted three former national security whistleblowers whose stories of “official revenge are a frightful warning to the CIA staffer. Yet all three would do it again, in service to their country.”

One of them is Jane Turner, a 25-year veteran special agent with the FBI. She led the FBI’s  programs for women and children on North Dakota Indian reservations. After reporting problems within the child crime program, Turner was retaliated against.

From the Post

 She fought back. A 2015 Government Accountability Report critical of FBI whistleblower procedures said the Justice Department “ultimately found in her favor in 2013 — over 10 years later.”

“Was the destruction of my career and family worth the excruciating time and money, ostracism and vilification? No,” she said Wednesday. “Was standing up and doing the ethical, legal and moral whistleblowing the right thing? Yes. Would I do it again? My moral and legal compass would not allow any different course of action.” Continue Reading National security whistleblowers pay a price for doing the right thing

Every journalist who has ever worked with a whistleblower knows these are fraught relationships. The journalist wants the story. The whistleblower wants justice. Or, maybe revenge. Whistleblowers can be heroic, brilliant, paranoid or deceptive. Journalists can push for too hard for information that may not be in the interest of the whistleblower to share. Or, somebody makes a misstep and the whistleblower is exposed.

Still, the stories they produce are sometimes the best way to right a wrong. So, the NWC was happy to produce a list of tips for journalists working with whistleblowers. We also contributed to a compilation put together by the Journalist’s Resource, a Harvard project that aims to connect reporters with reliable sources of information.

For more on this topic, check out the upcoming Double Exposure film festival and symposium. A session on whistleblowing features Theranos whistleblower Erika Cheung.

The stakes are rising for whistleblowers across the globe. In the United States, whistleblowers are facing prosecution under the Espionage Act like never before, a charge that carries a potential life sentence for speaking up to expose wrongdoing. Elsewhere, whistleblowers face financial and professional ruin, smear campaigns and–in some countries–targeted assassination. What does this mean for the watchdogs in print and film? Continue Reading The journalist and the whistleblower

Sen. Chuck Grassley spoke out in support protecting the IC whistleblower on Tuesday. No surprise here. Below find his most recent remarks for National Whistleblower Day.

From Politico

The most senior GOP senator has fashioned a career on protecting whistleblowers during presidencies of both parties. And in the middle of one of the most tempestuous political storms in two decades, the seventh-term Iowan is sticking to his position even if it’s at odds with the president himself…

Last week, a number of Republicans mounted attacks on the whistleblower as a secondhand source with no direct knowledge of the inner workings of the administration.

“He’s not really a whistleblower, so it’s really more hearsay,” South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said Friday.

Grassley said “the distinctions being drawn between first and secondhand knowledge aren’t legal ones.” He did not mention Trump or his attacks on the whistleblower specifically in his statement, instead asserting that “no one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts.”

Here’s Grassley’s full statement. 

Continue Reading Grassley speaks out in defense of whistleblower. No surprise here.

From The Washington Post on concerns over protections for the IC whistleblower.
Dave Colapinto

Federal laws offer only limited protection for those in the intelligence community who report wrongdoing — even when they follow all the rules for doing so. Trump and his allies, analysts said, might face few, if any consequences, for outing the whistleblower or otherwise upending the person’s career… Notably, analysts said, the law puts the president in charge of enforcement — which is particularly ironic in this case, given Trump is the subject of the complaint.

“So, what kind of protection is this whistleblower going to get through this system?” said David K. Colapinto, the co-founder of the National Whistleblower Center. “But you got to understand that prior to 2014, there was nothing on the books. This is considered an advancement.”

If whistleblowers are fired, demoted or otherwise punished, they can now at least pursue internal remedies, though they cannot go to court, Colapinto said. Such cases, he said, “usually end poorly for the whistleblower.”

Continue Reading Hearsay, treason and growing concern over the fate of the intelligence community whistleblower