Whistleblower Legislation

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The term whistleblower is a sports reference. Referees blow the whistle when an athlete does something wrong on the field. But, when wrong-doing happens off the field – such as abuse or doping — athletes sometimes have to make the call.

Often, it doesn’t go well. Two bills pending in Congress would offer more protection for athletes who come forward with information on misdeeds.

Recent amendments to a pending bill aim to strengthen whistleblower protections for Olympic and amateur athletes.The “Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act” now includes anti-retaliation language. The amendments would also ensure that the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a non-profit that investigates abuse of amateur athletes, reports cases involving children to authorities. Like teachers and others who work with children, the organization would be held to the reporting requirement of the Federal Victims of Child Abuse Act. The organization would also be subject to an annual audit.

The bill is designed to address ongoing criticism of the agency, including some issues highlighted in an October Orange County Register story. The story described the frustrated parents who say the agency has been slow to address charges that two Chicago-area gymnastics coaches physically, verbally and emotionally abused athletes.


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Not all the recent whistleblower news from Capitol Hill involves the president and the Ukraine.  The House last week passed a bill that would add a whistleblower protection provision to rules governing a national accounting oversight board. And on Monday, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), introduced a bill that advocates say will protect whistleblowers who report financial crimes internally before going to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

That bill would address the impact of last year’s Supreme Court decision in Digital Realty Trust Inc. v. Somers.  The ruling limited protected whistleblowing to disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), leaving those who report internaly vulnerable, according to Stephen Kohn, chair of the National Whistleblower Center. 
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Bulletproof vests that don’t work. Russian money laundering. US tax cheats with Swiss bank accounts. No-bid, sweetheart government contracts.

Once a year, whistleblowers and their supporters gather to remind each other why they risked so much to expose wrongdoing. This year’s National Whistleblower Day event will be Tuesday, July 30. It will be broadcast live from Capitol Hill on Facebook. It is one of several events and panels underway this week as part of the annual Whistleblower Summit.

From the National Whistleblower Center:

National Whistleblower Day will commemorate the 241st anniversary of America’s first whistleblower law, and celebrate the contributions of whistleblowers to democracy.The event will feature speakers including whistleblowers, lawmakers, and other public officials.

More from the NWC on some of the speakers, with video from past events:


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6/27 Update:  The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) will seek access to the trial of accused whistleblower David McBride, according to Commonwealth lawyers, who say the national broadcaster has expressed an interest in influencing orders affecting the trial.

Mr McBride, 55, was greeted outside the ACT Supreme Court this morning by a group of protesters supporting his case, holding signs with statements like “protect whistleblowers, defend democracy”.


The recent arrest of an Australian whistleblower and police raids on journalists’ offices have triggered movement toward stronger whistleblower protection laws in that country.  Another case in the Australian news is a reminder that whistleblowers often give up beloved careers to expose wrongdoing.

In one a recent case, a federal judge was quoted calling Australia’s whistleblower laws “technical, obtuse and intractable.”

From The Guardian:

Transparency campaigners have welcomed attorney general Christian Porter’s announcement that whistleblower protections will be strengthened, while urging him to establish a new whistleblower protection authority, create a compensation scheme and shield a broader range of people.

Porter on Friday flagged his intention to overhaul public sector whistleblower protections, in an attempt to make the system simpler and more accessible to government employees.

More from The New York Times on David William McBride, who is charged with leaking classified military documents to Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalists. McBride admits to leaking documents that led to a story on Australian special forces in Afghanistan.


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In the course of her research into fraud and white-collar crime, Kelly Richmond Pope comes across a lot of whistleblower stories. The DePaul University accountant and business professor said she couldn’t understand why they were treated so poorly. So, she did a TED talk about it. Now she knows even more stories. Pope talked to the Whistleblower Protection Blog in May.  A forensic accountant, she has experience in insurance fraud investigations and fraud risk management projects. TR

Kelly Richmond Pope

 Q. What cases are you following?

It seems like there is a new story every day.  Behind every fraud story, which is my area of research, there is a whistleblower. What you may call a whistleblower case, I may call a fraud case. If we are hearing about it in the news, that means someone somewhere told something.

Q. You talked about how whistleblowers are looked at as tattle-tales, not as heroes. Do you think people still have that attitude?

Absolutely. I think it is still going on. The whistleblower dilemma is about how we as a society treat these brave people. It is very hard to come up against the system. Right now, we are hearing more about the whistleblowers at Boeing. I would say 95 percent of the world is impacted by the airline industry. So, we want those people to come forward with information. We look at that as having a direct impact on our health and safety.
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