By Kait Pararas, National Whistleblower Center

On December 3, the National Whistleblower Center will once again launch its end of year fundraising campaign by participating in #GivingTuesday.

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that is fueled by the power of social media and harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations worldwide to encourage people to donate to the causes close to their heart.

It’s one of the best ways for supporters to become more involved in issues they care about, and NWC is proud to be a participant.

Over the next two weeks before the big day, we’ll be putting the spotlight on a few whistleblowers whose stories never stop inspiring us. Each of these people exposed waste, fraud, and wrongdoing at great personal risk.

Read their stories. See why exactly we do what we do – and who you’re helping when you join our community.

Help kick off our campaign today and follow the National Whistleblower Center on Twitter (@StopFraud) and Facebook as we share what we worked on in 2019 and highlight the critical importance of whistleblowers around the world.

 

The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said Friday he does not want to put a “cap” on awards to SEC whistleblowers.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said a provision that would give the SEC discretion over awards of more than $30 million has been “mischaracterized” as a “cap.” He made the comments in a letter accompanying the whistleblower office’s annual report to Congress.

The proposed provision was not a “cap,” it could not and was not intended to operate as a “cap,” and I do not support a cap.  Congress vested in the Commission the authority and responsibility to use our good judgment and experience to determine award amounts within the range of 10-30% prescribed by Congress, and we should do just that.

The mischaracterization did have a salutary effect.  The whistleblower bar, members of Congress and other commentators brought to my attention the fact that the mischaracterization raised uncertainty about the agency’s commitment to the program.  They explained that uncertainty, including even uncertainty regarding the award process for very large awards, could deter potential whistleblowers from coming forward.  This reality of human emotion and decision-making under uncertainty is not lost on me. 

 While all cases are different and award processes that incorporate the exercise of discretion have an inherent level of imprecision, it is my aim that, as we gain greater experience with the whistleblower program, the award process will be more transparent.

The National Whistleblower Center has opposed proposed changes, which staff say would damage the program by adding additional reporting requirements and allowing the SEC to cap some awards. The NWC has met with Clayton and has filed numerous comments on the rule. An SEC meeting to consider the rules was cancelled in October; Clayton said the panel will “consider final rules in the near future.” Continue Reading SEC reconsidering proposed rules on whistleblower awards?

All potential whistleblowers face a choice. Report through official channels — their agency’s whistleblower program or a company’s compliance office. Or, go to Congress or the press. In yesterday’s post, an accounting professor made the case for using inside channels. In a Q.&A. in today’s Boston Globe, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg advises otherwise.

If you had one message to America about whistle-blowing and its value, what would it be?

We need more whistle-blowing, not less, and that has never been more evident than right now. . . . Don’t go through channels. Go to the press and Congress directly. . . . The risks are very real, but the risks can be worth taking.

The NWC advises whistleblowers to talk to a lawyer before they go anywhere. The whistleblower protection laws are complex and vary from case to case, agency to agency. In a recent interview with WGBH in Boston, Ellsberg noted that he didn’t have many options.  Continue Reading Ellsberg says “We need more whistleblowing, not less”

Turns out hearsay can be pretty reliable.

The validity of secondhand information about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine reemerged as an issue at Wednesday’s impeachment hearings. The president’s supporters initially dismissed the whistleblowers’ revelations as unreliable “hearsay.” They are now making the same claim about the State Department diplomats who were first to testify.

This as virtually everything the whistleblower reported has been confirmed by those in the loop or present at the events in question.

That result would line up with the findings of an analysis of two million whistleblower complaints filed at more than 1,000 private companies.  Kyle Welch, a business professor at George Washington University, had just published a study in September using 13-years of  information from a firm  that makes and runs corporate compliance software.  His research, with Stephen Stubben of the University of Utah, is producing much needed data about the nature of whistleblower complaints.

So, when hearsay became an issue in the impeachment investigation, he decided to run some numbers on it.

The surprise: Secondhand “reports are 47.7% more likely than firsthand reports to be substantiated by management, which suggests that management views many secondhand reports as credible.“ Continue Reading Study: Secondhand whistleblower reports are reliable

Whistleblowing is good for our health. Not necessarily the whistleblower’s health. But, while we’ve been watching the battle over whistleblower protection in Washington, insiders have been busy flagging health fraud.

As a result, there are patients out there who may have been spared unnecessary spine surgery or viscosupplementation injections. As a bonus, the rest of us won’t have to pay for them through Medicare.

In its October announcement of a $7.1 million settlement with the now defunct Osteo Relief Institutes, the Department of Justice (DOJ) describes viscosupplementation as a treatment for osteoarthritis “in which a doctor injects a gel-like fluid into a patient’s knee joint to act as a lubricant and to supplement the natural properties of joint fluid.”

But the clinic didn’t quite get it right, according to the DOJ.

Continue Reading Healthcare whistleblowers have your back, and your knees

 John Kostyack is the executive director of the  National Whistleblower Center

A national conversation is underway about whether the President’s actions on the Ukraine matter warrant impeachment – a question on which the National Whistleblower Center does not take a position. However, an equally robust conversation needs to happen on a related question: how to respond to the President’s hostile actions toward the Ukraine whistleblowers.

Our view is that the President’s actions are very likely violating laws prohibiting intimidation of witnesses and reprisals against whistleblowers. Moreover, he is failing to uphold his duty to enforce the anti-reprisal law. Regardless of how Congress proceeds on the impeachment inquiry, it must forcefully assert itself here. Congress needs whistleblowers to perform its constitutional oversight role and otherwise ensure implementation of the laws it passes. To defend its role in our system of checks and balances, Congress must insist that the President reverse course.
Continue Reading It’s time for Congress to fulfill its constitutional oversight role and protect whistleblowers

I was punished for telling the truth. You hear that a lot from whistleblowers. Not what they expected for doing the right thing. Some organizations see whistleblowers as disloyal. So, when they fire, harass, demote, dox, or professionally blacklist a worker, supervisors see it as punishment, not retaliation.

So, anonymity is key. The laws protecting whistleblowers from retaliation are strengthened by provisions for anonymity. What do they need to be protected from? Anyone who has ever gotten on the wrong side of a toxic boss or an unfair co-worker has had a taste of it.

Protection tips

The National Whistleblower Center offers a list of whistleblower protection practices to avoid retaliation. The NWC site shares the story of Jane Turner, a 25-year veteran special agent with the FBI who is also the chairwoman of the NWC’s Whistleblower Leadership Council. She led the FBI’s  programs for women and children on North Dakota Indian reservations and reported problems with the program. Turner said the aftermath was the destruction of her career and finances and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Here’s how they describe her case: Continue Reading Why anonymity? This is what retaliation against whistleblowers looks like

Major news outlets aren’t naming the rumored Ukraine whistleblower despite disclosure of a name on social media and the Real Clear Investigations website.

From The Washington Post. 

The mainstream media’s silence is puzzling to Tom Kuntz, the editor of Real Clear Investigations (RCI), which published its whistleblower investigation last week.

“The silence has been deafening,” he said. “It’s almost like there’s a code of omerta [the Mafia vow of silence] about what media organizations can report. . . . There’s a herd mentality and a reluctance to cut against the grain.”

From the Society of Professional Journalists.

Some Republican’s argue that the name reveals the whistleblower’s bias. Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times said he’s not not convinced his identity is important at this point “…or at least important enough to put him at any risk, or to unmask someone who doesn’t want to be identified…Pretty much everything has now been discussed or confirmed on the record, multiple times, by others in the administration. So I’m not sure I see the point of unmasking someone who wants to remain anonymous.” Continue Reading Omerta or good journalism? News outlets aren’t sharing whistleblower rumor

11/6 update: Chris Cillizza at CNN comments on Rand Paul’s strategy at a Monday Trump rally,

“What Trump and Paul are trying to do is put the whistleblower at the end of this process. Unless the whistleblower reveals him or herself, how we can trust that anything he or she says is right? We have to know who this person is to judge whether they are some bitter Democrats or loser Never Trumper!

That’s not what a whistleblower is or what they do. Whistleblowers are the start of a process, not the end of it. And they are rarely the centerpiece of the process.”
He gets NWC director John Kostyack to explain how it works.

11/4: The Ukraine scandal whistleblower’s work is done, but the president and his supporters continue to call for him or her to come forward. They say his bias must be exposed. Democrats say he is no longer a key witness; others have confirmed the facts in the whistleblower complaint. Anonymity will protect him or her from certain harassment and retaliation.

Still, some lawmakers and conservative media sites are naming a CIA officer they say is likely the whistleblower. On Wednesday, the conservative news site Real Clear Politics reported that the whistleblower is CIA analyst who worked at the White House – something the New York Times reported to some outcry. Real Clear Politics puts a name to it and offers this confirmation: the name of “a government official fitting that description… has been raised privately in impeachment depositions, according to officials with direct knowledge of the proceedings, as well as in at least one open hearing held by a House committee not involved in the impeachment inquiry.“

The whistleblower’s lawyers won’t confirm or deny. They have offered to have the whistleblower answer written questions from GOP lawmakers under oath.  Most major press outlets are not reporting the name. Continue Reading Push to unmask whistleblower continues despite confirmation of facts in complaint

Federal employees who face retaliation for blowing the whistle have an option for redress: the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

The only problem is — there’s currently no one on the board and their hasn’t been a quorum since 2016. It has a backlog of more than 2,000 cases and a record of siding with the boss.

The MSPB, whose three board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, reviews the whistleblower cases of federal employees and makes the final determination. Somebody has to have the back of the federal employees who have been marching into the Capitol to testify each day.  A piece in Mother Jones talks about how recent concerns over whistleblower protection have highlighted the role of the board — and the problem of not having one.

When it’s working, the MSPB protects whistleblowers who reveal wrongdoings in the management of most federal agencies, covering more than 2 million civilian federal employees. The board was created in 1979 to address retaliation against whistleblowers. When whistleblowers were demoted, stripped of responsibilities, or fired, they were able to turn to the three-member board of the MSPB for intervention. Recent members of the board have been labor lawyers with experience in government. Continue Reading Merit Systems Protection Board: A crack in the whistleblower protection system