Internal Whistleblower

9/25 update: David Colapinto, general counsel of the National Whistleblower Center, spoke about the disputed intelligence community case on NPR and C-SPAN’s Washington Journal.

Click here for the NPR audio.  

“If you work in the intelligence community you must bring your concern to the inspector general before you can go to Congress,” he says. But an employee at Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example, “can go right to [their] member of Congress or the committee that has jurisdiction over housing,” and report their concerns. “Those are two major differences, as we’re seeing play out,” Colapinto says.

Click here for C-SPAN  video.

(The case) is testing the system set up by Congress…It is a failure if they don’t transmit the complaint to congress. it would be the worst possible outcome to have a whistleblower who did everything right, obeyed the law, did not leak to the media, had the complaint verified, and not have it go where congress said it should go.


Whistleblowers from the intelligence community face a different set of rules than other government insiders. The information they have about wrongdoing may be classified. Protection may be limited. Congress should be involved.

David Colapinto, general counsel of  the National Whistleblower Center, explained this and more to The Washington Post  and The Atlantic. The stories were two in an ongoing flood of reporting about the decision by director of national intelligence to withhold details about the Ukraine whistleblower complaint from Congress.

Colapinto called this move unprecedented and said it could further erode trust in the intelligence community.

 “The system of whistleblowing will fail in the intelligence community if that complaint is not transmitted to Congress,” he said. “To have a whistleblower complaint verified as credible and urgent and not end up where it’s supposed to go would be the worst possible outcome. There would be a crisis in confidence in the intelligence community.”
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Retaliation against whistleblowers takes many forms. A little person working at the White House recently reported a supervisor moved files to a high shelf out of her reach. Others report being followed, shunned, smeared, fired and worse. Whistleblowers often find themselves in a hostile work environment.

Julie Myers Wood, a corporate compliance consultant, thinks that works against both whistleblowers and their employers. In-house reporting programs with whistleblower protections built in are the way to go, writes Wood, who has a resume filled with high level federal government positions.

Institutions must shift their mindsets to view the reporting of regulatory problems as an opportunity to shine by addressing the problem, improving the institution and preventing large settlements. 

In a column posted on the Forbes website Monday, she suggests companies work with whistleblowers to both protect the company and strengthen compliance.

Companies need to get to a place where they embrace the potential whistleblower by creating a transparent culture, instilling the shared value of compliance at all levels.

Her advice is not aimed at whistleblowers, some of whom have had bad experiences with in-house hotlines. Advocates suggest employees approach internal reporting systems carefully – they are there to protect the company and can be used against whistleblowers.

Wood encourages the development of internal reporting programs with the message – let’s try to keep this in house. For companies, that is a good thing. But whistleblowers have found that internal reporting isn’t always effective or to their advantage. They have other options. Working with law enforcement or government agencies, they can remain anonymous in many cases and often qualify for a reward.  
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Corporate Compliance Programs Crippled and Thousands of Employees Lose Protection

Washington, D.C. | February 21, 2018 — In a groundbreaking anti-whistleblower decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that employees who report violations of securities law to their supervisors or corporate compliance programs, but not to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), are not protected from retaliation under the Dodd-Frank Act (DFA).
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Washington, D.C. November 28, 2017. Rejecting arguments by Senator Charles Grassley, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and numerous representatives from the whistleblower community, during today’s oral argument in Digital Realty Trust v. Somers (No. 16-1276), the U.S. Supreme Court Justices expressed support for stripping internal whistleblowers of protection under the Dodd-Frank Act (“DFA”).

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Thousands of Whistleblowers At-Risk of Losing Protection

WASHINGTON, DC – DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, UNITED STATES, November 28, 2017 — The United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument today in a major precedent setting whistleblower case, Digital Realty Trust v. Somers. the first whistleblower case under the Dodd-Frank Act (DFA) to reach the Supreme Court.


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This term the U.S. Supreme Court will decide Digital Realty Trust v. Somers (Digital), one of the most important whistleblower cases to come before the Court in 20-years.   The Chamber of Commerce and its Wall Street allies want to strip all employees who report securities frauds internally to their compliance departments or managers from protection under the Dodd-Frank Act’s (DFA) whistleblower law.
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Corporate whistleblower protection “undermined” if internal complaints not protected.

Washington, D.C. June 26, 2017.  The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari today in the case of Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers, Paul.  The Court will decide the issue of whether internal reports to managers are covered under the Dodd-Frank Act’s anti-retaliation law.
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Corporate Attack on Internal Whistleblowers Rebutted

In an article published on June 22, 2017,  by Law360, Stephen M. Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) and partner in the whistleblower rights law firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto, revealed previously unknown information regarding the legislative history of the anti-retaliation language in the Dodd-Frank Act (Dodd-Frank).  A controversy exists regarding these provisions which has resulted in a split in the U.S. Courts of Appeal interpreting the scope of protected activity. 
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