John Kostyack Previews Strategy
for New Era of Whistleblower Advocacy
The National Whistleblower announced today that it is naming John Kostyack, a well-known nonprofit leader, attorney and policy expert, to serve as its Executive Director effectively immediately. Below is Kostyack’s first statement as Executive Director:
What an exciting time to be joining the National Whistleblower Center team. NWC is one of the world’s most respected nonprofits leading the fight for whistleblowers and against corruption. Thanks to laws secured in recent years by NWC and its partners and growing bipartisan interest among policy makers to strengthen these laws, NWC is poised to quickly ramp up its work with whistleblowers to reduce environmental damage and other harm to the public caused by large-scale corruption.
In the past few decades, NWC’s whistleblower advocacy has grown from addressing retaliation in the workforce to implementing laws that regularly deliver anti-corruption victories by adhering to three core principles:
- Protect whistleblowers’ anonymity and stop retaliation,
- Keep confidential their submissions to law enforcement, and
- Reward whistleblowers financially if their information leads to successful civil or criminal action against the corrupt individual or company.
In future blog posts, I will highlight examples of how these laws have reined in large-scale fraud, pollution and other lawbreaking and how they have brought a greater focus on legal compliance to major industry sectors. I also will share the inspiring stories of the whistleblowers who made these victories happen and discuss what motivated them to step forward to help their communities.
I am grateful for the trust placed in me by the NWC Board of Directors and greatly look forward to working with the NWC staff and volunteer leadership, especially outgoing Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn, who is perhaps the most respected whistleblower attorney in the world and will continue providing legal and policy expertise in his role as Chairman of the NWC board.
With encouragement and support from the Board of Directors, I will be challenging myself and the NWC team to make early, measurable progress on the following key organizational goals:
Provide Legal Expertise to Whistleblowers. Working closely with NWC attorneys and its extensive network of partner NGOs and law firms, NWC will ramp up outreach, education and legal representation for whistleblowers around the world. (Little known fact: U.S. whistleblower laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act allow foreign whistleblowers to collect rewards for exposing corruption by foreign companies that sell stock into the U.S.) We will give early focus to enforcement of laws that regulate trafficking in endangered wildlife and tropical hardwoods, importing of illegally caught fish, and pollution of the oceans – areas where NWC has already made important progress.
Celebrate Whistleblowers. We will expand our work to increase public understanding of the benefits of whistleblowers to society. (Little known fact: 62 million Americans have witnessed fraud or misconduct at work, and yet 98% of observed misconduct at work is either not reported or only reported internally.) NWC will shift the conversation about whistleblowers from “who did what to whom in the workplace?” to “how can we ferret out corruption and strengthen the rule of law, on which democracy depends”? As law enforcement officials under both Democratic and Republican administrations have repeatedly stated, whistleblowers are absolutely critical to achieving these objectives. Subscribe to NWC’s email list for regular updates on NWC’s celebration of whistleblowers, including our National Whistleblower Day event in Washington, D.C., on July 30.
Advance Whistleblower Policy. NWC will defend our powerful system of whistleblower reward and anti-retaliation laws while working for even stronger protections. In the current Congress, we will prioritize enactment of H.R. 864, the bipartisan Wildlife Conservation & Anti-Trafficking Act, which improves the current system of rewards for those who help stop illegal wildlife trading and provides restitution to affected communities in the form of conservation investments. We also will work to strengthen the legal framework for whistleblowers in the states and other countries and to strengthen agency implementation of existing whistleblower laws. (Little known fact: The Departments of Interior and Commerce have broad authorities to operate whistleblower programs and provide restitution to communities suffering environmental damage, but the Government Accountability Office has found that these authorities have been sorely neglected.)
Success with this ambitious agenda will require collaboration with the many NGOs and law firms that share our concerns about corruption and belief in the rule of law. It will require an ongoing dialogue with the journalists who share our passion for digging out the facts and the many policy makers who want anti-corruption laws that really work. I greatly look forward to building these new partnerships and benefiting from the continued support of our thousands of activists and donors.