A guest post from new environmental video network   

By Tadzio Mac Gregor Schneider

The WaterBear Network (“WBN”)  is an interactive video on-demand platform dedicated to the planet. The WBN is built on three primary pillars: Watch, Join, and Save.

The network will be going live in 2020. Join our growing community to enjoy and engage with the ultimate worldwide environmental initiatives.

WBN members will be inspired by documentaries, series, short videos.They will join a fast-growing global community through our advanced interactive platform, and be able to take action to help save the planet by participating in and contributing to local and global initiatives.

Our mission is to connect, inform and empower individuals, companies and other organizations across the world to take actions that will have a positive impact on our planet.

Continue Reading Watch, Join, and Save: WaterBear Network aims to inspire wildlife whistleblowers

Whistleblower programs are “an important check on a firm’s compliance,” according to a survey of nearly 200 “financial services executives.”

The survey, conducted annually by the consultants at the firm Duff & Phelps, is designed to provide “a view into how firms are grappling with the constant of regulatory compliance against a backdrop of continual change.” In addition to whistleblower efforts, the study looks at anti-money laundering programs and new technology coming online for compliance and enforcement programs.

A summary reports that nearly three-quarters of respondents confirm that they have whistleblowing programs in place and 86 percent of them “at least somewhat agreeing that such programs should be mandatory.” Between one-quarter and one-third of firms feel the programs are firms are either “very” or “completely” effective.

At the same time, some are less confident in individual elements of the programs. More than one-quarter of the respondents describe their firms’ ability to evaluate the complaint and to “implement an appropriate response” to a whistleblower to be “not-at-all” effective or “somewhat” effective.   Continue Reading Survey: Whistleblower programs aid financial compliance, but some efforts fall short

Nearly half of 14,000 federal employees surveyed said they had witnessed or experienced a prohibited personnel practice while on the job in 2016, including rules protecting whistleblowers.

The percentage of employees aware of violations jumped to 46 percent in 2016 from 34 percent in 2010, according to a new report from the Merit Systems Protection Board.

The report notes that perceptions of reprisal for whistleblowing nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016, from 8.1 percent to 14.3.

The report notes: “Employees need to believe that they can safely disclose wrongdoing, and this is less likely to occur if they believe they have seen others experience retaliation for it, or if they feel that disclosures they made in the past led to retaliation by agency officials.”

Continue Reading Growing number of federal employees report increase in discrimination and whistleblower reprisals

Tuesday is the deadline to register for the Thursday, June 13 webinar on the role of citizens in enforcing environmental law. From the Environmental Law Institute:

Click here to register for the webinar: Collecting evidence of environmental crime

Around the world, significant progress has been made to establish legal frameworks for environmental protection. Many of these laws can help to put a stop to pollution or conserve natural resources in the United States, as well as foreign countries and international waters. However, the success of these laws is greatly hindered by a lack of enforcement.

Oftentimes, everyday citizens have evidence of environmental wrongdoing, or could easily collect it, but lack the know how to report such evidence to the authorities, or otherwise follow up on required procedures.

Continue Reading Webinar for wildlife whistleblowers: Collecting evidence of environmental crime

Maya Efrati head shot
Maya Efrati

By Maya Efrati

In a show of bicameral bipartisanship, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have introduced bills to declare July 30th, 2019 as National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. The Senate has passed similar resolutions each year since 2013; the House introduced a resolution in 2018. Whistleblower advocates hope to see both the Senate and the House pass these resolutions in 2019, forming a clear call from Congress for celebrating whistleblowers.

The resolution traces the importance of whistleblowers back to before the passage of Bill of Rights, when “10 sailors and marines blew the whistle on fraud and misconduct that was harmful to the United States.” In fact, it was the Continental Congress that passed America’s first whistleblower law during the height of the American Revolution on July 30th, 1778. In the centuries since, whistleblowers have proven to be a crucial component to fighting crime, fraud, corruption, and other criminal behaviors. Our system of accountability relies on brave individuals stepping forward with the truth. And whistleblowers have brought in billions of dollars to U.S. government coffers as well.

Continue Reading House and Senate Introduce Resolutions Declaring National Whistleblower Appreciation Day

Bow_of_the_Caribbean_Princess,_Liverpool_(geograph_2977707)
Caribbean Princess

Princess Cruises “depends on the oceans. We are committed to environmental practices that set a high standard for excellence and responsibility and help preserve the marine environment.” Its “Planet Princess” web page describes how the company does that through voluntary “environmental certification” and efforts to minimize air and water pollution.

The Department of Justice tells a different story. On Monday, the DOJ announced that the company was fined $20 million after violating the terms of probation from a 2017 citation for dumping polluted water into the ocean. This update notes that they continue to illegally dump plastic overboard as well.

A whistleblower – one of the ship’s engineers — originally brought that case to the authorities. That’s how regulators get most of their cases these days, according to a  Department of Justice official who spoke at a panel on the topic in April. Continue Reading A whistleblower exposed illegal dumping by Princess Cruise Lines. The DOJ says they are still doing it

Medicine is a profession with high ethical standards. At the same time, there is much money to be made. Bad players find ways to siphon some of the nearly $600 billion we spend on Medicare each year. So, both the health care industry and its regulators constantly struggle with how to cope with the kickbacks, conflicts of interest and billing for unnecessary care.

Illustration by Nora Valdez

Last year, $2.5 billion of the $2.8 billion in Department of Justice False Claim Act recoveries involved the health care industry. In 2019, whistleblowers working with the DOJ included hospital administrators, sales representatives, home health care workers, physicians and patients.

Now, they may have more muscle. Maria Durant, a partner with the firm Hogan and Lovells, told a group of lawyers gathered in Boston last week there has been a a major shift in the way courts interpret the validity of medical opinion. She spoke at a conference on health care law held Thursday by the Boston Bar Association.  Continue Reading Can medical opinions be false claims? Now they can, as two whistleblower cases suggest a shift.

For a hospital that had once labored to break even, Wheeling Hospital displayed abnormally deep pockets when recruiting doctors.

To lure Dr. Adam Tune, an anesthesiologist from nearby Pittsburgh who specialized in pain management, the Catholic hospital built a clinic for him to run on its campus in Wheeling, W.Va. It paid Tune as much as $1.2 million a year — well above the salaries of 90% of pain management physicians across the nation, the federal government charged in a lawsuit filed this spring.

In addition, Wheeling paid an obstetrician-gynecologist a salary as high as $1.3 million a year, so much that her department bled money, according to a related lawsuit by a whistleblowing executive. The hospital paid a cardiothoracic surgeon $770,000 and let him take 12 weeks off each year even though his cardiac team also routinely ran in the red, that lawsuit said.

Despite the losses from these stratospheric salaries and perks, the recruitment efforts had a golden lining for Wheeling, the government asserts. Specialists in fields like labor and delivery, pain management and cardiology reliably referred patients for tests, procedures and other services Wheeling offered, earning the hospital millions of dollars, the lawsuit said. Continue Reading Kaiser Health News: Hospitals Accused Of Paying Doctors Large Kickbacks In Quest For Patients

Whistleblower protection has changed dramatically in the past 15 years, says Stephen M. Kohn, chair of the National Whistleblower Center. Writing in the international publication “Ethical Boardroom,” Kohn spells out the changes and what they mean to those on governing boards and in the C-suite.

This is all radically different than the whistleblowing depicted in popular culture. It has nothing to do with employee grievances or the stealing of national security secrets. Done correctly, an employer never learns the identity of the whistleblower and thus, traditional employment relations cases become relics of a time when whistleblowers lacked safe, confidential and effective reporting mechanisms.

These changes need to be embraced, not opposed. The issue is no longer the whistleblower, but whether a company will tolerate criminal activity in order to profit. Turning a blind eye to corruption can have disastrous consequences…Trying to silence whistleblowers is the biggest mistake any corporate executive can make. Continue Reading Memo to C-suite: Don’t silence whistleblowers. Do consider becoming one.

Idaho’s tort law limiting damage awards in lawsuits does not apply to the state’s whistleblower law, according to a Tuesday ruling by the Idaho Supreme Court. The justices rejected a lower court’s decision to limit the amount of money awarded to a State Police detective who exposed a cover-up of another deputy’s dangerous actions.

In 2017, a jury awarded Detective Brandon Eller $30,000 in economic damages under the state’s Protections of Public Employees Act. The judge ruled that he was not entitled to non-economic damages under the whistleblower law, but he was awarded $1.5 million for a “negligent infliction of emotional distress” claim. The court reduced that to claim to $1,000,000 because Idaho Tort Claims Act caps damages at $500,000 for each incident.

Both sides appealed. From the ruling:

Continue Reading Idaho court overturns ruling limiting damages award to state police whistleblower