“Roan @ The Gates” is new play about a whistleblower and how her actions impact her marriage. The play just ended a run at Luna Stage in West Orange, New Jersey

Outspoken civil rights attorney Nat and her NSA analyst wife Roan seem to have it all together. But when their personal life collides with national security, it launches a beautiful, high-stakes adventure that illuminates the cost of secrecy.

In the real world, whistleblowers were credited last week with reporting concerns to Congress about a White House plan to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.


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Estonian Financial Supervision Authority logo
Seal of the Estonian EBFS

Danske Bank has been ordered to close its troubled Estonian branch before the end of 2019.  Estonian regulators noted on February 19 that the bank violated anti-money laundering regulations for many years by allowing high-risk money-laundering clients to make suspicious transactions through the bank.

In addition, they stated that Danske Bank misled the Estonian public authorities by providing them with inadequate information and thus actually hampered their investigation, according to a statement from the Estonian Board of Financial Supervision.

Danske Bank announced the same day that it is also closing banks in Latvia and Lithuania and Russia.

In a related move, the European Union Banking Authority has opened a formal investigation “into a possible breach of Union law by the Estonian Financial Services Authority and the Danish Financial Services Authority in connection with money laundering activities linked to Danske Bank and its Estonian branch in particular.”

Here’s a roundup of reaction and reporting:

“This is a lesson to corporate banks.  Danske Bank made a grave error when it forced Mr. Wilkinson to sign a restrictive non-disclosure agreement, instead of working with Mr. Wilkinson in trying to fix the problems,” according to a statement from Kohn.
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From Terra Verde, a weekly public radio program on environmental news.

KPFA logoHas the US government been failing to take advantage of an existing wildlife crime whistleblower program to fight against wildlife crime? Terra Verde host and Earth Island Journal editor Maureen Nandini Mitra explores this subject, as well a new wildlife crime whistleblower bill that’s making its way through Congress right now, with environmental journalist Richard Schiffman, and Stephen Kohn, a Washington, DC-based attorney and the executive director of the National Whistleblower Center.


In the Earth Island Journal story, Schiffman describes Kohn’s argument that “the best way to fight wildlife crime is to tap informants within trafficking groups — the poachers or the middlemen who transport illegal wildlife parts to a final destination — to help bust crime rings preying on endangered species. Enlisting whistleblowers in the Gulf and across totoaba smuggling routes, he believes, could have helped law enforcement break up what he calls the “totoaba cartel.
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When does the statute of limitations clock start running in a False Claims Act (FCA) case when the government declines to intervene in a whistleblower case?  That is the question the Supreme Court will consider when it takes up Cochise Consultancy, Inc. v. United States.

The National Whistleblower Center filed an amicus curiae brief in the case this week.

At issue: Must an FCA plaintiff rely on the statute of limitations in a suit in which the United States declines to intervene?  If so, does the three-year limitations period begins to run from the date of the whistleblower’s knowledge of the alleged false claim, or from the date of the government official’s knowledge of the alleged false claim?

The brief, written by NWC executive director Stephen M. Kohn, notes that his organization takes the position that the “merits of a claim often bear no relation to the duration of a case.”
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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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A man once called “America’s most famous whistleblower” has died at the age of 92. In 1968, A. Ernest Fitzgerald, a top financial manager for the Air Force, revealed a $2.3 billion cost overrun in the Air Forces’ Lockheed C-5 aircraft program. He did it before Congress and in defiance of his superiors.

From The Washington Post 

Under oath, he said the C-5A was $2 billion over budget. In testifying, Mr. Fitzgerald later said, he was merely “committing truth.” The revelation about the vast cost overruns made national headlines, stunning members of Congress as well as Mr. Fitzgerald’s superiors.

In 1996, he received the Paul H. Douglas Award,  given each year to a “government official … whose public actions or writings have made a significant contribution to the practice and understanding of ethical behavior in government.”

A biography posted on the award program website described the retribution against Fitzgerald.


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Whistleblowers helped the IRS collect more than $1.4 billion in criminal fines, civil forfeitures, and reporting violations in fiscal year 2018, according to an agency report released Wednesday.

Of that record amount, more than $300 million went to IRS whistleblowers – an average of 21.7 percent of proceeds collected.  That’s an increase from fiscal year 2017, when the average reward was 17 percent.

It was a record setting year in proceeds collected and award amounts paid, according to Lee D. Martin, director of the IRS Whistleblower Office. Since 2007, the program has made more than $800 million in whistleblower awards based on the collection of $5 billion.

In a written statement, Stephen M. Kohn, president of the National Whistleblower Center, called the report “the best news of the year for whistleblowers.”  The IRS program is now working well, he wrote. “Whistleblowers who witness tax frauds will be encouraged to take the risk, and report the crimes. This is game changing.”


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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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Some might see whistleblowers as lucky lottery winners when their multimillion-dollar rewards come through. But, the title of the piece in the February 4 issue of The New Yorker reflects the other side of the story: “The Personal Toll of Whistleblowing”

“Whistleblowers are usually, but not always, employees or members of the group on which they’re blowing the whistle; after they do so, their lives are never the same,” writes Sheelah Kolhatkar. She joined The New Yorker in 2016 after a writing about Wall Street and financial crime for Bloomberg Businessweek.

“Institutional denial, obfuscation, and retaliation are hallmarks of many whistle-blowing cases,” she writes.

new york whistleblower artKolhatkar runs through a list of notable whistleblowers, including  New York City police officer Frank Serpico,  tobacco company whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand; Sherron Watkins of Enron; and National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.  That they were all portrayed in Hollywood films is no surprise. Whistleblower tales are often David versus Goliath dramas.


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If poachers and wildlife trafficking networks operate like international criminal syndicates, why not treat them that way? That’s one approach outlined in a bill reintroduced in Congress today designed to bolster efforts to use whistleblower rewards to stop wildlife crime. 

The bill aims to address problems with existing wildlife whistleblower programs that were identified in May by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). It expands on existing whistleblower provisions and calls for new rules and the authority to enforce them.

The Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act was reintroduced by Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska – who calls himself an avid sportsman — and California Democrat John Garamendi, who describes himself a conservationist and outdoorsman.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “NOAA) each currently have the option to reward whistleblowers who expose poaching, trafficking and other wildlife crimes. But, the 2018 GAO audit found that agencies’ programs are underused and inefficiently implemented.

The Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act would give more muscle to existing programs. The bill also would require that penalties and fine from prosecutions be redistributed to wildlife conservation efforts.


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