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.” Continue Reading Coming up: Learning how to use environmental whistleblowers to stop pollution at sea

Two major whistleblower awards were revealed late last week.

Reuters is reporting a $1.7 million award to three Takata employees who exposed problems in airbag inflators.

In a separate case, CareWell Urgent Care Centers will pay a $2 million to two states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to settle a case involving both overbilling and unnecessary care. The walk-in clinics allegedly overbilled Medicaid and the insurance plan for state employees, according to a release issued Friday from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. 

The case was triggered after a former CareWell nurse practitioner came forward, according to a story in The Boston Globe.

Aileen Cartier, who worked at several of the company’s locations for almost two years, said managers told staff to take medical histories and perform exams on patients that far exceeded what was needed for their simple ailments. Continue Reading Health and Human Services whistleblower rewarded. NTSA whistleblowers take a different route

Two SEC whistleblowers have been awarded a total of $50 million for exposing conflict-of-interest problems with investment advisors at JPMorgan Chase Bank

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the awards but did not offer any details of the case. However, lawyers for one whistleblower revealed it involved a 2015 $267 million settlement with the bank.

JPMorgan Chase Bank advisors invested clients’ money in JPMorgan hedge funds and mutual funds without properly disclosing the conflicts of interest, According to the 2015 settlement, some of the funds produced less revenue than other investments.

In an announcement of the award, Jane Norberg, head of SEC’s whistleblower program, wrote that insiders can “be the source of ‘smoking gun’ evidence and indispensable assistance that strengthens the agency’s ability to protect investors and the capital markets.”

One whistleblower won $13 million and the other received $37  million. The SEC announcement noted that the latter award was the third-highest award to date after the $50 million March 2018 award and a September 2018  $39 million award.

Continue Reading $50 million for two SEC whistleblowers who exposed conflict-of-interest problems at JPMorgan

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.” Continue Reading U.S. settles whistleblower False Claims Act suit. Duke University to pay $112 million in fabricated research data case

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.

Continue Reading HBO documentary features Theranos whistleblowers: “I’m not one of those people who can keep quiet.”

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.

Continue Reading How to be a government whistleblower? Congress is becoming more of an option

Corrupt government officials and informants who fear retribution. These are some of the challenges faced by citizens who become involved in helping enforce illegal logging regulations.

Three panelists discussed these and other forestry crime issues at March 21 webinar on “Citizen enforcement in the forestry sector”– Melissa Blue Sky, of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL); Ruth Noguerón, of the World Resources Institute and  Shelley Gardner, Illegal Logging Program Coordinator, USDA Forest Service. Each touched on the issue.

Interpol estimates that illegal timber comprises 15-30% of the global timber trade. That amounts to between $51 and $152 billion worth of wood every year.

A study of illegal timber harvesting in Peru found that exporters are adept at finding new ways to evade export controls, Blue Sky said.

For example, harvesting modalities not always subject oversight in Peru. Timber is “red flagged” as illegal but exported anyway– often to countries without timber regulations. In some cases, documentation about the source of the timber is manipulated.

“In many cases, it involves that active participation of government officials and until they are held accountable for that, you don’t get at the root of the problem,” Blue Sky said.

Continue Reading As citizens get more involved in spotting wildlife crime, they could benefit from whistleblower protections

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.”

Continue Reading Investors bail while shareholders demand answers and action from Danske Bank on money laundering scandal

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.

Continue Reading Research: Whistleblowing athletes shouldn’t have to choose between their careers and the truth

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.” Continue Reading Supreme Court justices described as “skeptical” of limiting statute of limitations for False Claim Act