International Whistleblowers

6/27 Update:  The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) will seek access to the trial of accused whistleblower David McBride, according to Commonwealth lawyers, who say the national broadcaster has expressed an interest in influencing orders affecting the trial.

Mr McBride, 55, was greeted outside the ACT Supreme Court this morning by a group of protesters supporting his case, holding signs with statements like “protect whistleblowers, defend democracy”.


The recent arrest of an Australian whistleblower and police raids on journalists’ offices have triggered movement toward stronger whistleblower protection laws in that country.  Another case in the Australian news is a reminder that whistleblowers often give up beloved careers to expose wrongdoing.

In one a recent case, a federal judge was quoted calling Australia’s whistleblower laws “technical, obtuse and intractable.”

From The Guardian:

Transparency campaigners have welcomed attorney general Christian Porter’s announcement that whistleblower protections will be strengthened, while urging him to establish a new whistleblower protection authority, create a compensation scheme and shield a broader range of people.

Porter on Friday flagged his intention to overhaul public sector whistleblower protections, in an attempt to make the system simpler and more accessible to government employees.

More from The New York Times on David William McBride, who is charged with leaking classified military documents to Australian Broadcasting Corporation journalists. McBride admits to leaking documents that led to a story on Australian special forces in Afghanistan.


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Whistleblowers would be permitted to report wrongdoing to outside authorities before reporting to their company or agency’s internal review program, according to a provisional rule approved this week by the European Commission and member countries.

Virginie Rozière, a French Member of the European Parliament (MEP)
French MEP Virginie Rozière, via press conference video.

Action on the EU whistleblower directive had been stalled over the reporting issue. Several member countries, led by Germany and France, wanted to require employees to report potential crimes and fraud internally before going to regulators and law enforcement. Transparency, anti-corruption groups and their supporters believe that approach would have made it more difficult for individuals to come forward with information about wrongdoing.

“The debate has been quite lively over the course of the last few weeks,” Virginie Rozière, a French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) said in French at a press conference following the decision.

The provisional rule allows for what are called “safe reporting channels.”

From the European Commission release:

Whistleblowers are encouraged to report first internally, if the breach they want to reveal can be effectively addressed within their organisation and where they do not risk retaliation. They may also report directly to the competent authorities as they see fit, in light of the circumstances of the case.

Transparency International called the provisional rule “a pathbreaking piece of legislation,” citing the case of Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson.

“Whistleblowers in the EU, like Howard Wilkinson, the Danske Bank whistleblower, have spent far too long facing unjust retaliation for speaking out. It is quite an accomplishment that negotiations between the institutions have come to a positive end,” according to a statement from Nick Aiossa of Transparency International.


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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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National Whistleblower Center warns that Malta Gaming Authority lawsuit threatens rule of law

WASHINGTON, D.C. | FEBRUARY 28, 2018—The National Whistleblower Center (NWC), in cooperation with the European Center for Whistleblower Rights, requested the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Malta to take immediate action to ensure that the whistleblower, Mr. Valery Atanasov, is not subjected to retaliation in violation of the Council of Europe’s Civil Law on Corruption and the domestic Malta whistleblower law.


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Cites FCPA & FCA as powerful detection and enforcement tools

In remarks delivered to a group of Italian and American leaders and law enforcement officials on Thursday in Rome, U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch highlighted the powerful tools the United States is using to fight international fraud and corruption. Lynch also gave assurances to the group that the United States is committed to fighting corruption noting that “we are working tirelessly to detect corruption and bring wrongdoers to justice – no matter how powerful the actors, no matter how complex the crimes, and no matter where the crimes take place.”
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A recent report published by Blueprint for Free Speech and the Thomson Reuters Foundation has found that UK law “does not–and cannot–adequately protect whistleblowers.” The report, entitled “Protecting Whistleblowers in the UK: A New Blueprint,” closely examines the UK’s existing whistleblower protection legislation, specifically PIDA (the Public Interest Disclosure Act), concluding that the law is outdated, “broken”, and in need of several major updates. In addition to outlining PIDA’s shortcomings in terms of protecting whistleblowers in the UK, the report’s authors offer specific solutions to ameliorate the law.
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In response to the Panama Papers — the more than ten million leaked documents from the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, that exposed illicit financial activity and tax evasion through the use of anonymous offshore shell companies — the White House announced on May 6th that it would end the use of anonymous corporations in the United States and require disclosure of beneficial owners when foreigners deposit money or buy assets in the United States.

The White House announced that it plans to:
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Washington, DC, November 16, 2015.  The SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower issued its annual report today highlighting the successes of the Office.  This includes payments of more then $37 million to whistleblowers in 2015 and a 30% increase in the amount of claims filed with the office.  The SEC also took enforcement action to ensure that corporations stop using restrictive nondisclosure agreements to keep regulatory violations hidden.


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