Federal employees who face retaliation for blowing the whistle have an option for redress: the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

The only problem is — there’s currently no one on the board and their hasn’t been a quorum since 2016. It has a backlog of more than 2,000 cases and a record of siding with the boss.

The MSPB, whose three board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, reviews the whistleblower cases of federal employees and makes the final determination. Somebody has to have the back of the federal employees who have been marching into the Capitol to testify each day.  A piece in Mother Jones talks about how recent concerns over whistleblower protection have highlighted the role of the board — and the problem of not having one.

When it’s working, the MSPB protects whistleblowers who reveal wrongdoings in the management of most federal agencies, covering more than 2 million civilian federal employees. The board was created in 1979 to address retaliation against whistleblowers. When whistleblowers were demoted, stripped of responsibilities, or fired, they were able to turn to the three-member board of the MSPB for intervention. Recent members of the board have been labor lawyers with experience in government.
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In a staff editorial entitled “Thanks Whistleblower, Your Work is Done,” The New York Times includes an annotated version of the original intelligence community whistleblower complaint. They note that “every piece of information that the public first learned from the whistle-blower’s complaint has been corroborated.” You can find it all in the transcript of the call, congressional testimony and news reporting.

The Times offers a highlighted version of the compliant: Yellow marks the points confirmed by White House transcript, blue for statements from officials, purple for testimony, green for news reports and red for “not yet proven.” There’s one minor fact in red.

 Highlighted in yellow.

The President did solicit interference.
“I would like you to do us a favor,” Mr. Trump said in a July 25 phone call with Mr. Zelensky, according to the White House account
 of the call…


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The clamor continues for the intelligence community whistleblower to come forward. But, the Democrats now say they’re corroborated everything in the initial whistleblower report and may not have to interview him or her. The whistleblower’s lawyers agree.

President Trump created the office via executive order.

For some, the case raises questions: Why do whistleblowers need to remain anonymous? Why don’t they use internal reporting programs instead of going to the press or a lawyer with information about wrongdoing?

Consider the headline in the Mother Jones story on Thursday’s report from the Veterans Affairs Inspector General.

IG Says VA Whistleblower Office Mostly Screwed Whistleblowers


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On Monday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced the cancelation of Wednesday’s meeting on proposed changes to its whistleblower program. The meeting is expected to be rescheduled in November.

Stephen M. Kohn, chair of the National Whistleblower Center board, issued a statement: ” We welcome the postponement of the October 23rd meeting. It is vitally important that the SEC understands all of the issues and gets this rulemaking right.”

In a related development, Sen. Charles Grassley on Tuesday spoke on the Senate floor about a bill he introduced in September  that would addresses problems with the SEC proposals. Also on Tuesday, staff from the NWC delivered a petition with more than 100,000 signatures calle on the agency to reconsider the proposed changes” to the SEC whistleblower program.

In the meantime, the topic is starting to get some attention.

From Quartz:

Wall Street’s top watchdog loves to tout the success and importance of its whistleblower program.

“These awards show how critically important whistleblowers can be to the agency’s investigation and ability to bring a case to successful and efficient resolution,” said Jane Norberg, who heads the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) program, when announcing a $50 million reward for two whistleblowers in March.
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 In Hollywood, everyone loves a whistleblower. Actress Meryl Streep played one early in her career in Silkwood, and she plays one again in The Laundromat. The film offers a goofy take on what became known as The Panama Papers, an international expose of the offshore finance industry.

During the publicity tours for the film, Streep speaks in support of whistleblowers. At the opening, Streep said:

The reason this, the Panama Papers, was exported to the world was because of the work of over 300 investigative journalists who got the word of John Doe, the whistleblower … out into the world,” Streep said. “Some people died for it … And people die still to get the word out. This movie is fun, it’s funny, but it’s really, really, really important.


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Almost all of the money management or securities firms on Wall Street “entrusted with the life savings of their clients lie, cheat and steal one way or another.”

Not the kind of thing you might expect to read in Forbes, but columnist and former whistleblower Edward Siedle offers a lively column this week inviting others in the finance industry to “join the whistleblower revolution.”

If you work on Wall Street in the money management or securities industries—like I used to—you should serious consider becoming an SEC whistleblower. Why? Because almost all firms in these industries that are entrusted with the life savings of their clients lie, cheat and steal one way or another. If you don’t already know this, you’re probably new to the business. You’ll find out soon enough, like I did early in my career as the Compliance Director of a global asset manager.

He writes that the terms “lie, cheat and steal,” are rarely heard on Wall Street.

Money management lawyers and securities regulators typically use sterile, colorless terms such as misrepresentations, failures to disclose and mischaracterizations as to the nature, sources and amounts of fees, conflicts of interest involving self-dealing and fiduciary breaches.


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Harvard Law School professor Terri Gerstein writes that the case of the IC whistleblower is strangely familiar to her.

A worker learns of brazen violations of law and feels compelled to speak up. The boss and his buddies go bananas, demanding to know the worker’s identity, making veiled or explicit threats, disparaging the worker’s credibility…

Terri Gerstein

Gerstein is director of the State and Local Enforcement Project at the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program. Writing in The American Prospect, she describes what she’s seen in her years of enforcing workplace laws: A fast food is worker fired after reporting a gas leak to the fire department. An airport skycap reported fired the day after appearing at a press conference about minimum wage violation. Countless examples of workers being pressured to stay quiet about sexual harassment.

These examples point to the need for better protections for workers who report serious illegality. The focus on these high-profile whistleblowers should be a catalyst for strengthening whistleblower laws in general, which are currently a patchwork.

Protections vary from statute to statute and from state to state. Ideally, these laws would include strong protection against retaliation; confidentiality; standing for whistleblowers to bring their own lawsuits; and finally, incentives for coming forward. These goals are not unrealistic; the False Claims Act, for example, allows people reporting fraud against the government to file their own lawsuits. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service have paid millions of dollars to whistleblowers who have provided original information leading to successful enforcement actions.
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As EU officials move toward better protection for whistleblowers, they are likely watching how our system is holding up. In April, the EU Parliament passed a much-needed law that would shield whistleblowers from retaliation. It also created “safe channels” to allow them to report breaches of EU law. Today, Transparency International’s released an analysis and recommendations designed to help EU nations adopt “best-practice national laws that will effectively protect whistleblowers and support anti-corruption efforts in their country.”

Like they do here, according to 90 people who should know.

From: An Open Letter to the American People

We are former national security officials who proudly served in a wide array of roles throughout the U.S. Government. We are writing about the Intelligence Community whistleblower’s lawful disclosure, which was recently made public. While the identity of the whistleblower is not publicly known, we do know that he or she is an employee of the U.S. Government. As such, he or she has by law the right—and indeed the responsibility—to make known, through appropriate channels, indications of serious wrongdoing. That is precisely what this whistleblower did; and we applaud the whistleblower not only for living up to that responsibility but also for using precisely the channels made available by federal law for raising such concerns.


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Every journalist who has ever worked with a whistleblower knows these are fraught relationships. The journalist wants the story. The whistleblower wants justice. Or, maybe revenge. Whistleblowers can be heroic, brilliant, paranoid or deceptive. Journalists can push for too hard for information that may not be in the interest of the whistleblower to share. Or, somebody makes a misstep and the whistleblower is exposed.

Still, the stories they produce are sometimes the best way to right a wrong. So, the NWC was happy to produce a list of tips for journalists working with whistleblowers. We also contributed to a compilation put together by the Journalist’s Resource, a Harvard project that aims to connect reporters with reliable sources of information.

For more on this topic, check out the upcoming Double Exposure film festival and symposium. A session on whistleblowing features Theranos whistleblower Erika Cheung.

The stakes are rising for whistleblowers across the globe. In the United States, whistleblowers are facing prosecution under the Espionage Act like never before, a charge that carries a potential life sentence for speaking up to expose wrongdoing. Elsewhere, whistleblowers face financial and professional ruin, smear campaigns and–in some countries–targeted assassination. What does this mean for the watchdogs in print and film?
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