The New York Times headline inspired retired Environmental Protection Agency staffer William Sanjour to write to the editor.

The headline read: “Whistle-Blower Did the Unexpected: She Returned to Work”

Why are you surprised that a whistle-blower went back to work?” he wrote in a letter posted Wednesday. “I was a whistle-blower at the Environmental Protection Agency and went back to work for 20 years and continued to blow the whistle, as did several of my whistle-blowing colleagues. That’s the law.”

The law he refers to is the Whistleblower Protection Act and Sanjour relied on it as a long-time critic of his own agency.

The Times story he refers to was about Tricia Newbold, a White House security office staffer. This weekend, she told Congressional investigators that senior White House officials overruled security staff and granted clearances to 25 employees.    
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Whistleblowers play a big role in rooting out corporate crime and government misdeeds that take place behind closed doors. They also have a role in flagging environmental crimes that happen out-of-site on the high seas.

On April 16, a panel of environmentalists, advocates and lawyers will discuss marine pollution laws and the role private citizens and whistleblowers play in the detecting off-shore crimes. The webinar will cover both the benefits and challenges of using “unconventional actors” in marine law compliance efforts.

Event sponsors include the Environmental Law Institute, the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE) and National Whistleblower Center (NWC).

The groups note on website for the event that it is part of an ongoing series of discussions examining “how whistleblower laws, emerging technologies, and citizen engagement are transforming the landscape of environmental enforcement today. The series aims to build capacity among government agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals about whistleblower considerations.”
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Duke University reported in January that its scientists won $384.6 million last year from the National Institutes of Health, “ranking 9th in the country among universities, research institutions and teaching hospitals that are awarded the taxpayer-based research dollars.”

This week, they had to give some of it back.

Duke has agreed to pay $112.5 million to the U.S. Government to settle a suit brought by a whistleblowing lab tech. The case involves another research technician who fabricated data from 2006 to 2013. The findings were used in applications for some of those NIH-funded studies.

The government investigation began after Joseph M. Thomas brought a qui tam case under the False Claims Act. Thomas’s share of the settlement will be $33,750,000.

The Justice Department announcement quoted U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin saying that taxpayers expect federal grant dollars will be used honestly.

“Individuals and institutions that receive research funding from the federal government must be scrupulous in conducting research for the common good and rigorous in rooting out fraud,” the statement notes.  “May this serve as a lesson that the use of false or fabricated data in grant applications or reports is completely unacceptable.”
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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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Congress is once again calling on whistleblowers for help investigating a federal agency, this time the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Boeing 737 Max airplane tails
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Citing safety issues emerging after two crashes of the Boeing 737 MAX airplane, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Friday put out a call for FAA whistleblowers. They were directed to a new whistleblower webpage set up to collect information.

The move marks the second time in about a month that a member of Congress has called on whistleblowers to come forward. In February, Rep. Maxine Waters  issued an open letter to potential whistleblowers at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  The California Democrat asked agency employees who witness waste, fraud, abuse to contact her office.

Anyone thinking about becoming a whistleblower should speak to a whistleblower attorney first, said John Kostyack, director of the National Whistleblower Center

“Given the complex set of laws and procedures governing whistleblowing, and given the risk of retaliation for speaking out, whistleblowers should get assistance with protecting confidentiality and anonymity and potentially receiving financial rewards for assisting law enforcement with addressing wrongdoing and recovering civil and criminal penalties,” Kostyack 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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Two UK researchers report that “for both US and UK doping whistleblowers, coming forward with information requires ongoing personal sacrifice – emotional, financial and relational.” From “The Conversation” — a site that offers academic research in plain English. More here on whistleblower protection and athletics from the NWC.

swimmers
Shutterstock
by Kelsey Erickson, Leeds Beckett University and Susan Backhouse, Leeds Beckett University

 

Athletes should not feel like they have to choose between their careers or telling the truth about doping in sport. Yet, our new research shows that this is (too) often the reality for many involved in the sporting world. Telling the truth isn’t always rewarded. Instead, speaking up – whistleblowing – is too often followed by retribution.

Our new research shows that whistleblowing on doping in elite sport can (and does) come at a cost to the whistleblower. As we discovered, for both US and UK doping whistleblowers, coming forward with information requires ongoing personal sacrifice – emotional, financial and relational.

Contrary to common belief, whistleblowing on doping is generally not a simple matter of report and move on. Rather, it is a series of steps – each accompanied by complex decisions – that exist from the moment of witnessing the questionable behaviour to well beyond the act of actually whistleblowing.


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Title page Supreme Court case 18-31`5Members of the Supreme Court are skeptical of interpreting the statute of limitations in False Claims Acts cases in a way that would “help fraudsters,” according to attorney Stephen M. Kohn, who attended arguments today in a key False Claims Act case.

Kohn is author of an amicus brief in the case submitted on behalf of the National Whistleblower Center. A decision in Cochise Consultancy, Inc. v. United States, will determine the statute of limitations window for False Claims Act (FCA) cases when the government declines to intervene.

“The Justices appeared to understand the purpose of the False Claims Act is to help the government uncover fraud and were skeptical of interpreting the statute of limitations in a manner that would help fraudsters,” Kohn noted

More from Kohn’s report:

Demonstrating the Courts understanding as to why Congress would have wanted a longer statute of limitations when the relator moves a False Claims Act case forward, even without the government, Justice Sotomayor noted that, “in qui tam the recovery in bulk goes to the government.”
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The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on Tuesday in Cochise Consultancy, Inc. v. United States, a case that will determine the statute of limitations window for False Claims Act (FCA) cases when the government declines to intervene.

At issue:  How should the statute of limitations apply in a qui tam suit in which the United States declines to intervene?  Does the three-year limitations period begin to run from the date of the whistleblower’s knowledge of the alleged false claim. Or does it begin on the date of the government official’s knowledge of the alleged false claim?

The case revolves around whistleblower Billy Joe Hunt. In 2013, he filed a qui tam case alleging fraud by his former employer, a war contractor performing munitions clean-up work in Iraq in 2006. The government declined to intervene in Hunt’s case and it was dismissed by a district court.  The Eleventh Circuit then allowed the case to go forward ruling that the FCA’s three-year limitations period was triggered by the government’s knowledge of the alleged fraud—not the whistleblower’s knowledge.

Those arguing in support of the Eleventh Circuit ruling include the federal government and a 20-state coalition. An amicus brief filed on the coalition’s behalf by the Indiana attorney general argues that the states have a “strong fiscal interest in ensuring the False Claims Act (FCA) provides adequate time to investigate, prepare, and file FCA claims.”


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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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