A round-up of recent whistleblower news.

  • The Conversation: #MeToo whistleblowing is upending century-old legal precedent demanding loyalty to the boss

#MeToo was, of course, about sexual harassment and assault. But it was also a form of mass whistleblowing. The movement signaled victims’ willingness – at an unprecedented scale – to defy promises of secrecy to their employers in service of a larger truth by revealing their experiences of workplace harassment.

In the March 5 piece, Elizabeth C. Tippett, an associate professor at the University of Oregon law school, explains what her research into loyalty revealed about whistleblowing.  She said the courts and lawmakers prioritized an employer’s right to loyalty in the past. That is changing.

As legal scholar Richard Moberly documented, the U.S. Supreme Court has been remarkably consistent in recent decades in protecting private-sector whistleblowers. Congress has moved in the same direction, tacking on whistleblower protections in major federal legislation, including the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial reform statute.

Indeed, the righteousness of whistleblowers has become a rare matter of bipartisan consensus. In 2017, every lawmaker in both the House and Senate voted in favor of a law expanding whistleblower protections for federal employees.

Tippett concludes:

Employees are increasingly willing to defy employer demands for secrecy involving immoral, illegal or harmful conduct. And when they do speak up, lawmakers and courts are increasingly willing to back them up.

  

  • From European CEO: Whistle while you work: the benefits of corporate whistleblowing

This Feb. 25 piece concludes that “Whistleblowing comes with a number of risks, but remaining quiet can be just as costly. In fact, research indicates that companies with a higher number of reported problems boast better long-term health.”

It makes reference to Howard Wilkinson, the former Danske Bank manager who exposed money laundering at bank’s branches in Estonia. The story notes, that the uncertainty about the European Union’s whistleblower proposals has “left some whistleblowers in a state of limbo, and has deterred many other employees from speaking out at all.” 

The story quotes Thomas Vink, of at Transparency International: “Most citizens remain largely unprotected if they speak up, facing the risk of retaliation, judicial proceedings and dismissal.”

Read more about Wilkinson’s testimony here.

 

  • Roll Call: Pentagon harbors a culture of revenge against whistleblowers

A report on whistleblower activity was buried of the Department of Defense Inspector General’s December semi-annual report.

From fiscal 2013 through 2018 (the most recent reporting period), the IG determined that 350 Defense Department officials — most of them in the military services — retaliated against or sought to intimidate 195 whistleblowers.

In each of those cases, the IG substantiated both the allegation of wrongdoing and the report of retaliation for having disclosed it. But only one of the officials who tried to exact retribution on a whistleblower was fired.

Nearly half the retaliators’ cases are still pending within the department, though some are years old. In dozens of instances when action was taken, the punishment was just a verbal or written admonition. In 57 cases, the services or agencies opted to take no punitive action against the documented offender.

Find the report here.