Foreign Corruption Whistleblowers

Did local regulators in Estonia and Denmark fail to flag the Danske Bank’s money laundering scheme? Seems EU regulators can’t decide whether it was clearly money laundering or not.

EU bank regulators looked into it and said yes. But their superiors, the European Banking Authority (EBA) board of supervisors, felt the failings did not amount to a breach of EU law. The European Commission, which requested the review, disagrees and plans to pursue the EU investigation into Danske Bank’s scandal.

All this inspired a Bloomberg columnist to write:

Money launderers and financial criminals should — in theory — have good reason to fear the European Union’s army of white-collar cops. The bloc boasts 28 national financial regulators, a euro-zone banking regulator in Frankfurt (the Single Supervisory Mechanism), an EU-wide banking supervisor in London (the European Banking Authority), and a financial markets watchdog in Paris (the European Securities and Markets Authority). It’s a blizzard of three- and four-letter acronyms. 

Whistleblower Howard Wilkinson exposed the Danske bank scandal. He reported suspicious activity at bank’s Estonia branch, where he worked until 2014. Since then, investigators have identified up to $20 billion in fraudulent financial activity. National Whistleblower chair Stephen M. Kohn is Wilkinson’s whistleblower lawyer.
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A provisional rule approved in March by the European Commission and member countries ensures “robust” protection for whistleblowers, according to the agency’s response to a letter from the National Whistleblower Center (NWC).

Click for EU whistleblower video

Under the proposed rule, whistleblowers would be permitted to report wrongdoing to outside authorities before reporting to their company or agency internal review program. Earlier versions required internal reporting first, which the NWC believes would interfere with the right of employees to confidentially report suspected crimes.

The new rule specifically addresses that issue, wrote Georgia Georgiadou, deputy head of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Policy program. in a letter to Stephen M. Kohn of the NWC.

In particular as regards the agreed rules on reporting channels, whistleblowers are encouraged to report first internally, if the breach they want to reveal can be effectively addressed within their organisation and they consider that there is no risk of retaliation. They may also report directly to the competent authorities as they see fit, in light of the circumstances of the case.
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Corrupt government officials and informants who fear retribution. These are some of the challenges faced by citizens who become involved in helping enforce illegal logging regulations.

Three panelists discussed these and other forestry crime issues at March 21 webinar on “Citizen enforcement in the forestry sector”– Melissa Blue Sky, of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL); Ruth Noguerón, of the World Resources Institute and  Shelley Gardner, Illegal Logging Program Coordinator, USDA Forest Service. Each touched on the issue.

Interpol estimates that illegal timber comprises 15-30% of the global timber trade. That amounts to between $51 and $152 billion worth of wood every year.

A study of illegal timber harvesting in Peru found that exporters are adept at finding new ways to evade export controls, Blue Sky said.

For example, harvesting modalities not always subject oversight in Peru. Timber is “red flagged” as illegal but exported anyway– often to countries without timber regulations. In some cases, documentation about the source of the timber is manipulated.

“In many cases, it involves that active participation of government officials and until they are held accountable for that, you don’t get at the root of the problem,” Blue Sky said.


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From the markets to the boardroom to the picket line, the reach of Danske Bank’s money laundering fraud scandal continued to play out this week.

Reuters delivered several stories. A Wednesday morning story reported  that foreign investors sold Danish shares worth almost $14 billion in 2018, according to a report from Denmark’s central bank.

The divestment of bank equities may reflect a loss of confidence in the Danish banking sector in the wake of Danske Bank’s money laundering case, it said.

“The trust from international investors has certainly been reduced,” governor Lars Rohde told reporters in Copenhagen. He said political initiatives to combat money laundering were paramount to restore foreigners’ trust in Danish banks.

Rohde is the chairman of the board of governors of Danmarks Nationalbank.

Danske-Bank-Whistleblower-Howard-Wilkinson. Source: www.kkc.com
Howard Wilkinson

The Danske Bank scandal was exposed by whistleblower Howards Wilkinson. He reported suspicious financial transactions at bank’s Estonia branch, where he worked until 2014. It has been calculated that up to $20 billion in fraudulent financial activity have been brought to light by Wilkinson’s disclosures.

Stephen M. Kohn, Wilkinson’s whistleblower attorney, said in a statement that whistleblowers need to be supported, not vilified: “If the Bank had simply properly investigated Mr. Wilkinson’s initial disclosures in 2012 and 2013, they could have avoided most of this mess.”


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Three Canadian whistleblowers have been awarded more than $7 million, the first payment of its kind by the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC).

Whistleblower graphic “These individuals voluntarily provided high quality, timely, specific and credible information, which helped advance enforcement actions resulting in monetary payments to the OSC,” according to a statement from the Canadian agency.

To protect the identity of the whistleblowers, the agency did not release names or any information on the cases.

The OSC whistleblower program was established in 2016 and reports that it is the only Canadian securities whistleblower program offering financial awards. The office reported that, as of July 2018, it had received more than 200 tips.

Stephen M. Kohn, director of the National Whistleblower Center in Washington, notes in a statement that the award is a breakthrough for whistleblowers worldwide.

“Canada becomes the first country after the United States to recognize that substantial whistleblower rewards are the key to fraud detection and successful prosecutions,” Kohn wrote. “We hope that other advanced democratic nations follow this lead and enact qui tam laws similar to those in the United States.” 
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Whistleblower Protection in EU

The proposed European Parliament directive on whistleblower protection could make it more difficult for individuals to come forward with information about wrongdoing, according to a coalition of transparency and anti-corruption groups.

At issue is a provision that requires employees to report potential crimes and fraud internally before going to regulators and law enforcement.

A letter signed by a range of groups calls on the EU to protect the “free flow of information necessary for responsible exercises of institutional authority.” Disclosures to law enforcement and regulatory agencies provide a “safety net for protecting the public interest and the public’s right to know when organisations are corrupt or fail to take responsibility,” they write.

If this mandatory internal disclosure regime stands, the directive will have abandoned responsible Europeans who raise concerns appropriately to their employers through their supervisors or normal management channels of communication, who disclose information to competent authorities who have the power and mandate to address wrongdoing, or who provide information to the journalists who investigate and report in the public interest. They will suffer. Europe will suffer.


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From Feb.1 “International Conference on Anticorruption Policies” took place in Attica, Greece on Feb. 1. Sponsored by the Hellenic Anti-Corruption Organization.  Speakers at the meeting included Vladimir Hrle from the European Criminal Bar Association, Ciro Stazzeri from Global Infrastructure Anti-Corruption Center-Italy, Mia Rupcic of the Antibribery Academy International and George Patoulis, MD, the President of Central Union of Municipalities of Greece and NWC director and Washington-based lawyer Stephen M. Kohn.

Several US whistleblower laws have international applications that have been used to fight fraud and corruption worldwide.

The laws are key to anti-bribery efforts, and insider disclosures have already resulted in millions of dollars in fines in the U.S. and beyond, Washington-based lawyer Stephen M. Kohn told a group of international anti-corruption organizations on Friday, February 1.

The “International Conference on Anticorruption Policies” took place in Attica, Greece and was sponsored by the Hellenic Anti-Corruption Organization. Kohn, who is director of the National Whistleblowers Center, was one of the speakers.

Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), and IRS anti-fraud laws, the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) can all be applied internationally.

But whistleblowers need to be rewarded and protected from retribution, Kohn said.  He has urged the European Parliament to strengthen its proposed whistleblower directive to protect the identity of anonymous whistleblowers.

U.S. whistleblower programs allow for the protection of witnesses and detection of corrupt activities, including bribes paid to politicians by multi-national corporations, Kohn said. Penalties act to deter fraud and bribery.

Without these programs, the costs of exposing fraud and bribery is prohibitive, Kohn said.


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Danske-Bank-Whistleblower-Howard-Wilkinson. <br>Source: www.kkc.com
Danske Bank Whistleblower Howard Wilkinson. Source: www.kkc.com

Washington, D.C. October 24, 2018. Attorneys for the Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson announced that he will testify before both the Danish and European Parliaments.  Wilkinson is the former British trader from Danske Bank’s Estonia office who uncovered a massive money-laundering scandal involving billions of dollars flowing out of Russia and other former Soviet states. 
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International-Map-of-SEC-Crimes-Reported-foreign-corrupt-practice-act
International tips are crucial to the SEC’s law enforcement capabilities. From 2011 to 2017, the SEC received a total of 2,655 whistleblowers from 113 countries. This map shows the countries as well as the frequency of those tips.

Washington, D.C. August 30, 2018. Today, the National Whistleblower Center (“NWC”) released a report analyzing data from Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (“FCPA”) cases since the law was passed in 1977, including several cases decided in 2018.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is one of the most important whistleblower laws, especially for foreign nationals and for combatting corruption and bribery occurring on foreign soil. The FCPA prohibits companies issuing stock in the U.S. – and their subsidiaries – from bribing foreign officials to win contracts and other business.
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Washington-dc-buildingConcern expressed over Report’s impact on pending EU whistleblower directive

WASHINGTON, D.C. | June 20, 2018—The National Whistleblower Center (NWC) and the European Center for Whistleblowers Rights has made a formal request to the Governor of the Bank of England (BoE), Mark Carney, that the BoE remove a misleading report on U.S. whistleblower reward laws from its website within 10 working days.

The letter to Governor Carney states: “We are concerned that continued use of the BoE Report as a policy reference will only serve to inhibit the implementation of effective anti-fraud laws in the U.K. Many of its assertions […] are simply false.”


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