Corporate Whistleblowers

Whistleblowers exposed the technology collapse at Theranos, the life science start-up at the center of a new HBO documentary.

In January, Tyler Shultz and Erika Cheung told their stories at a session hosted by Stanford University’s McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society. They talked about how disorienting and frightening their experiences at the company were after they realized the touted blood testing system didn’t work.

Cheung said she doubted herself at first. She had a feeling “that there was something wrong going on here, but maybe there is something I’m not seeing. You’re surrounded by so many talented people… Everyone else was being very nonchalant about what was going on, just going through the motions and the grind of every day, knowing there were so many problems.”

More in this clip. A video of the entire session is available on YouTube. 

4/2 update: CNN reports that Cheung and Tyler have started an organization called Ethics in Entrepreneurship.


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Some might see whistleblowers as lucky lottery winners when their multimillion-dollar rewards come through. But, the title of the piece in the February 4 issue of The New Yorker reflects the other side of the story: “The Personal Toll of Whistleblowing”

“Whistleblowers are usually, but not always, employees or members of the group on which they’re blowing the whistle; after they do so, their lives are never the same,” writes Sheelah Kolhatkar. She joined The New Yorker in 2016 after a writing about Wall Street and financial crime for Bloomberg Businessweek.

“Institutional denial, obfuscation, and retaliation are hallmarks of many whistle-blowing cases,” she writes.

new york whistleblower artKolhatkar runs through a list of notable whistleblowers, including  New York City police officer Frank Serpico,  tobacco company whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand; Sherron Watkins of Enron; and National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.  That they were all portrayed in Hollywood films is no surprise. Whistleblower tales are often David versus Goliath dramas.


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Much of the $234 billion laundered through the Danske Bank started in Russia and ended in the U.S, as dollars, a whistleblower told the European Parliament in November.

Rep. McHenry

Now, a growing number of U.S. investigators want to know more. Last week, the heads of two congressional committees asked Deutsche Bank for information related to its lending practices and its role in a series of money laundering scandals, according to several news reports. Federal agencies are asking questions too.

The House is preparing to investigate Deutsche Bank’s handling of suspicious transactions from Denmark’s Danske Bank, according to a report in Politico.  Danske Bank is now is under investigation in relation to a massive, international money laundering scheme involving its Estonian branch banks.
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Corporate ComplianceOriginally published at Corporate Compliance Insights on November 19, 2018 by Guest Columnist Donna Boehme.  

Donna Boehme, the “Lion of Compliance,” comments on Novartis as a new “rock star” on the corporate compliance landscape, observing that the company has elevated its approach to compliance, culture and trust to best practice “Compliance 2.0” status – first, with its 2014 appointment of an independent and empowered CECO with true compliance SME (earned in the field) and now, with the elevation of the role to include all management risk functions and with a seat on the executive management team. She also notes as best practice the company’s establishment of a new bonus system that links bonuses to ethical leadership behavior, a feature many leading companies have yet to achieve.
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Dankse Bank Money-launderingA report released by Bloomberg today states that criminal investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice have contacted Deutsche Bank AG and Bank of America Corp. about transactions they handled for the small Danske Bank branch in Estonia that’s at the center of one of the biggest money-laundering investigations in history. The investigators are also questioning JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s work with the branch.
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Stephen-M-Kohn-Global-Whistleblower-AttorneyNovember 12, 2018. Washington, D.C. The leading whistleblower and qui tam attorney in the United States, Stephen M. Kohn is referred to as the “Dirty Harry” of Financial Fraud by the Danish press.  Kohn represents Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson, who uncovered what some are calling the largest money-laundering scandal in world banking history. 
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Danske-Bank-BuildingWashington, D.C. September 27, 2018. On September 26, 2018, an Estonian newspaper identified Howard Wilkinson as the Danske Bank whistleblower. Mr. Wilkinson is a former Danske Bank employee who confidentially raised concerns over an illegal money laundering scheme in 2013. Last week news reports on the $234 billion scandal revealed the existence of a whistleblower but not the identity.
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its largest whistleblower awardMajor breakthrough for whistleblowers reporting commodity frauds

WASHINGTON, D.C. | July 12, 2018—The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced its largest whistleblower award to-date in a commodity fraud case.  According to the Commission, it issued “an award of approximately $30 million to a whistleblower who voluntarily provided key original information that led to a successful enforcement action”
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Regulators and law enforcement must treat the illegal wildlife trade as a financial crime, argues Standard Chartered Bank in a recent bulletin.

“Approaches to tackling this trade have been limited by too-narrow a conception of it as a conservation issue,” it states. “Efforts to date have concentrated on the supply-side response. This is changing.”


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Good news for Pennsylvania whistleblowers
Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules whistleblowers eligible to receive noneconomic compensation as rewards.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a big decision for whistleblowers in Bailets v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, 2018 WL 1516785 (Pa. 2018). The Court ruled that noneconomic damages are compensable under Pennsylvania’s whistleblower law.

Ralph Bailets was a former Manager of Financial Systems and Reporting with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. During his tenure, he became concerned about the government contractor Ciber Inc., which was politically-connected to leaders of the Commission. When competing for one infrastructure project, Ciber offered the most expensive bid, yet still was chosen for the contract. As Ciber struggled to perform the contract, Bailets took the issue to his supervisor. Bailet’s supervisor initially warned him that Ciber had friends in high places, and later advised colleagues that Bailet “should be kept on a short lease.” He was fired shortly thereafter.


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