National Whistleblower Center

Today the National Whistleblower Center launches its Climate Corruption Campaign. I would like to share why I believe this campaign and the whistleblowers who will be at the heart of it are so badly needed.

For those fossil fuel and industrial logging company executives who may be reading this and be familiar with the corruption I describe: I encourage you to contact the National Whistleblower Center on our secure intake form and engage with us in a conversation about becoming a confidential whistleblower!

Climate Emergency

Last month, 11,000 scientists from around the world came together to issue a clarion call: “planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.” They predicted that “untold suffering” would ensue without an “immense increase” in effort to address the climate crisis.

I have always believed we are an intelligent species, quite capable of rescuing our civilization from the miseries of runaway climate change. The impressive gains in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the past few decades have only reinforced this belief. We now have the technology we need to get us most of the way to solving the climate puzzle and we have the ingenuity to take us the rest of the way.

Yet just last week, the Global Carbon Project released a report finding that in 2019, despite impressive progress with clean energy, global fossil fuel emissions had increased for the third straight year. Meanwhile a blizzard of studies strengthened the links between rising carbon emissions from fossil fuels, deforestation and other sources and the intensification of fires, floods and other extreme weather events as well as rapid ice melt on the world’s glaciers.

The urgent need for action is clear. We must not only bear down on proven strategies like rapidly deploying wind and solar energy. We also must finally come to grips with what is happening inside the companies producing fossil fuels. (I will write at a later date about coming to grips with the illegal timber trade.)


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Over the past two weeks as part of our #GivingTuesday campaign, we’ve shared with you the stories of Gene Ross, Sheila White, and Sherron Watkins who all courageously spoke out against fraud, corruption, and injustice.

It’s because of whistleblowers like them that we do what we do. Without their bravery, we would all be worse off.

Now, #GivingTuesday is here, and we need your help to continue to fight for whistleblowers like Gene, Sheila, and Sherron.

Whistleblower protections and incentives are under attack from all sides – big business, agencies, the courts, even the President.

We’ve scored some key wins this year like exposing Facebook’s autogenerated terror and hate content, passing the Taxpayer First Act, preventing an SEC rollback of protections and rewards for securities fraud whistleblowers, and introducing key legislation like the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act and Whistleblower Programs Improvement Act, to name a few. But we still have a long way to go.


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As part of our #GivingTuesday campaign this year, the National Whistleblower Center is highlighting the stories of several whistleblowers who spoke at the 2019 National Whistleblower Day celebration.

Sherron Watkins, Enron whistleblower

Sherron Watkins is the former Enron Vice President who wrote a now infamous memo in the summer of 2001 to then-CEO Kenneth Lay warning him about improper accounting methods.

At the time, Enron was one of the largest corporations in the U.S. and a giant in the energy-trading and utilities field. Fortune had named it “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years. However, Watkins’ memo revealed that the company’s finances were sustained by systemic accounting fraud and corruption.

Enron was forced to declare bankruptcy in late 2001, and she was called to testify before both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate about the accounting irregularities that she had found in the financial statements. 
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As part of our #GivingTuesday campaign this year, the National Whistleblower Center is highlighting the stories of several whistleblowers who spoke at the 2019 National Whistleblower Day celebration.

Sheila White is an employment discrimination whistleblower who took her case against railway giant Burlington Northern & Santa Fe all the way to the Supreme Court.

In June of 1997, she was the only woman working in the Maintenance of Way Department at BNSF’s Tennessee Yard. While she was hired originally as a “track laborer”, her duties soon expanded to operating the forklift.

In September that year, White complained to BNSF officials that her immediate supervisor had made repeated derogatory and inappropriate remarks to her in front of colleagues and suggested that women should not be working in the department.

While her boss was suspended and ordered to attend sexual harassment training, White was removed from forklift duty. She then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claiming the reassignment of duties constituted gender-based discrimination and retaliation.
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As part of our #GivingTuesday campaign this year, the National Whistleblower Center is highlighting the stories of several whistleblowers who spoke at the 2019 National Whistleblower Day celebration.

Eugene “Gene” Ross is a former Bear Stearns employee who uncovered the Amerindo Investment Advisor fraud in September 2004.

The principals of Amerindo – Alberto Vilar and Gary Tanaka – misappropriated at least $5 million from a client and made false and misleading statements. In November 2008, they were convicted for defrauding investors.

Gene was a witness for the Department of Justice and testified at the trial; an internal memo he wrote documenting the fraud was also used as evidence.

Because Gene blew the whistle, Vilar and Tanaka went to prison. The Amerindo victims got most of their money back. Without him, none of this would have happened.

But his honesty came at a price – Gene was heavily retaliated against by Bear Stearns. He was chastised, fired, and sued. In 2010, he was forced to declare personal bankruptcy.


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On December 3, the National Whistleblower Center will once again launch its end of year fundraising campaign by participating in #GivingTuesday.

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that is fueled by the power of social media and harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations worldwide to encourage people to donate to

Dan Zak in The Washington Post muses on the role of whistleblowers:

The whistleblower has gotten into the president’s head. In a Cabinet meeting Monday, Trump referenced whistleblowers 15 times. “You know, these whistleblowers, they have them like they’re angels, okay?” he said.

In a way, whistleblowers are like angels, looking after the well-being of government and corporations on behalf of the public — which may never be aware of their existence, let alone their names. They report waste, fraud and abuse on a daily basis, all across Washington and the private sector. Federal whistleblowers made over 3,300 disclosures in fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Members of the intelligence community made 563 outreaches to their own whistleblowing hotline in fiscal year 2018, and are on pace to exceed that number this year.

The piece includes a quote from NWC chair Stephen M. Kohn: “You can’t have a government based on rule of law unless citizens can freely report potential violations of the rule of law.” 


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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.
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Whistleblowers in the European Union will be at risk of retaliation unless they can report crimes to regulators and law enforcement without first reporting them internally.

Danske Bank Whistleblower EU testimony
Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson testifies during hearing at the EU Parliament Brussels, Belgium November 21, 2018.

That is the message from Stephen M. Kohn in an article published Wednesday on the website of Whistleblowerprotection.eu. Kohn, a Washington-based lawyer represents Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson.

Kohn writes that a fundamental principle in whistleblower law is the protection of employees who come forward.

Common sense dictates that reports directly to government officials must be protected. For example, if you are looking out your window, and see youthful offender mugged a senior citizen, you do not call the young person’s parent. You call the police. The same goes for corporate crime. If a company is stealing from its investors, or engaging in money laundering, illegal secret banking or other offenses, it is clearly important to report these crimes directly to the police as quickly as possible
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