Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

Citizens and activists can help stop environmental crime, but they need to know which laws apply, how to collect evidence and when to get a lawyer.

Different approaches to the role of citizens in collecting and reporting evidence of environmental crime were discussed last week by a three panelists at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, DC.

In many cases, there is no meaningful law enforcement to stop environmental crimes. That’s where citizens can come in.

By understanding how to collect evidence and navigate whistleblower programs, anyone can help enforce environmental laws. Anyone includes, NGO staff, those impacted by crime or insiders, such as cruise ship crews.

John Kostyack, director of National Whistleblower Center, talked about a range of existing federal laws with provisions that reward citizens who come forward with credible information about environmental crime.  Shaun Goho of the environmental law clinic at Harvard Law School talked about how the courts are likely to interpret evidence and expert testimony. Stevie Lewis of the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science said the EPA has been slow to act on the recommendations in a 2016 report on promoting citizen science. But, her group hasn’t.

Kostyack started his talk with a slide of a small, endangered porpoise known as the vaquita, according to a video of the event.

“It’s really a fitting symbol of what we’re up against,” he said. “The forces that are driving this beautiful animal to extinction in its home in the Gulf of California are the same forces that are driving much of the environmental devastation around the world and those are the forces of crime.”


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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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Fresh water turtlesA recent investigation of wildlife trafficking highlights the importance of improving whistleblower incentives in the wildlife crimes sphere. Through “Operation Dragon,” the Wildlife Justice Commission (“WJC”) investigated the ties between the trafficking of endangered and CITES-listed freshwater turtles and the corruption that facilitates that illicit trade. Over the course of two years, WJC used undercover investigators to document operations of eight major trafficking networks in South Asia and the corrupt customs and transportation officials that consistently enabled the trafficking. The investigation allowed law enforcement to significantly disrupt these networks, arresting 30 individuals and seizing over 6,000 freshwater turtles. Wholesale value for a batch of 6,000 averages $3 million.
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International-Map-of-SEC-Crimes-Reported-foreign-corrupt-practice-act
International tips are crucial to the SEC’s law enforcement capabilities. From 2011 to 2017, the SEC received a total of 2,655 whistleblowers from 113 countries. This map shows the countries as well as the frequency of those tips.

Washington, D.C. August 30, 2018. Today, the National Whistleblower Center (“NWC”) released a report analyzing data from Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (“FCPA”) cases since the law was passed in 1977, including several cases decided in 2018.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is one of the most important whistleblower laws, especially for foreign nationals and for combatting corruption and bribery occurring on foreign soil. The FCPA prohibits companies issuing stock in the U.S. – and their subsidiaries – from bribing foreign officials to win contracts and other business.
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Photo Credit: Leslie Rose Photography
Photo Credit: Leslie Rose Photography

Whistleblowers have been effective at combatting financial and corporate crime, but are sorely lacking in the sphere of wildlife crime. If empowered to combat it, whistleblowers could be fundamental to dismantling the wildlife crime economy, writes Scott Hajost, Managing Director, Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program, National Whistleblower Center.
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National Whistleblower Center at World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings
NWC Intern Karina Coltun Schneider, right, poses for a picture with African Union Ambassador Chihombori-Quao, center, and a fellow civil society organization delegate, left.

Youth worldwide are speaking out against corruption. At the 2018 World Bank Group and IMF Civil Society Policy Forum, the African Union Ambassador to the United States and delegates from over 100 civil society organizations representing over 40 countries discussed anti-corruption and ethics programs engaging youth in advocacy for good governance. These programs encourage young adults to hold their representatives accountable for accepting bribes from international companies.


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Yesterday, a delegation from the Republic of Armenia visited the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) for a presentation about best practices to fight corruption and the implementation of whistleblower laws. The visit was facilitated by the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), an initiative of the U.S. Department of State.

Attendees from the delegation included representatives from Armenia’s criminal court system (including both a lead judge and prosecutor), the Judicial Department, the Council of Justice, and the Ministry of Justice.


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The Human Rights Defenders’ 2015 Whistleblower Award recipient, David Kafulila, recently visited the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) in Washington, DC, with a group of business and government professionals from countries across Africa. NWC Executive Director and whistleblower law expert Stephen Kohn taught participants about whistleblower rights in the U.S., and best practices they could potentially adopt in their home countries—many of which are rampant with government corruption and offer little, if any, protection for whistleblowers.

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Today, the NWC’s Executive Director Stephen Kohn will take part in the “For Every Truth There Is a Source: Protecting Whistleblowers and Journalistic Sources” conference in Belgrade, Serbia. This international conference, hosted by the Serbian whistleblower advocacy group Pištaljkaa (The Whistle), and sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Information runs from Thursday the 27th through Friday the 28th of October.

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