Rep. Maxine Waters issued an open letter to potential whistleblowers at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) late last week. The California Democrat’s letter was addressed to agency employees who witness waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement. It asks that they “please do not hesitate to alert me and my staff” if they witness any such bureaucratic misconduct. Her action was in response to reports of low morale at the agency.
In a Monday Washington Post column about Waters’ letter, Stephen M. Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, agreed — with a caveat: “Whistleblowers are protected by federal law . . . Given the problems with federal whistleblower protection, we recommend that any whistleblower approaching Congress ensure that they can maintain anonymity.” He’s also noted that system does not offer federal employees rewards, and access to federal court jury trials is limited. In addition, the WPA does not apply to intelligence and national security agencies.
The CFPB has a online page with resources and information for “employees or job applicants who may have information they believe shows potential wrongdoing.” The page also links to similar information can be found on the Office of Inspector General Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.
The employee must have disclosed what he or she reasonably believes to be:
- a violation of law, rule, or regulation;
- gross mismanagement;
- gross waste of funds;
- an abuse of authority; or
- a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety;
Knowledge of whistleblowing.
- The personnel action in question must have been taken (or not taken, such as in the case of a promotion), threatened, or influenced by an official who knew of the employee’s disclosure; and
- The employee’s disclosure was a contributing factor in the personnel action.