Whistleblower Protection

 John Kostyack is the executive director of the  National Whistleblower Center

A national conversation is underway about whether the President’s actions on the Ukraine matter warrant impeachment – a question on which the National Whistleblower Center does not take a position. However, an equally robust conversation needs to happen on a related question: how to respond to the President’s hostile actions toward the Ukraine whistleblowers.

Our view is that the President’s actions are very likely violating laws prohibiting intimidation of witnesses and reprisals against whistleblowers. Moreover, he is failing to uphold his duty to enforce the anti-reprisal law. Regardless of how Congress proceeds on the impeachment inquiry, it must forcefully assert itself here. Congress needs whistleblowers to perform its constitutional oversight role and otherwise ensure implementation of the laws it passes. To defend its role in our system of checks and balances, Congress must insist that the President reverse course.

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Major news outlets aren’t naming the rumored Ukraine whistleblower despite disclosure of a name on social media and the Real Clear Investigations website.

From The Washington Post. 

The mainstream media’s silence is puzzling to Tom Kuntz, the editor of Real Clear Investigations (RCI), which published its whistleblower investigation last week.

“The silence has been deafening,” he said. “It’s almost like there’s a code of omerta [the Mafia vow of silence] about what media organizations can report. . . . There’s a herd mentality and a reluctance to cut against the grain.”

From the Society of Professional Journalists.

Some Republican’s argue that the name reveals the whistleblower’s bias. Dean Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times said he’s not not convinced his identity is important at this point “…or at least important enough to put him at any risk, or to unmask someone who doesn’t want to be identified…Pretty much everything has now been discussed or confirmed on the record, multiple times, by others in the administration. So I’m not sure I see the point of unmasking someone who wants to remain anonymous.”
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Every journalist who has ever worked with a whistleblower knows these are fraught relationships. The journalist wants the story. The whistleblower wants justice. Or, maybe revenge. Whistleblowers can be heroic, brilliant, paranoid or deceptive. Journalists can push for too hard for information that may not be in the interest of the whistleblower to share. Or, somebody makes a misstep and the whistleblower is exposed.

Still, the stories they produce are sometimes the best way to right a wrong. So, the NWC was happy to produce a list of tips for journalists working with whistleblowers. We also contributed to a compilation put together by the Journalist’s Resource, a Harvard project that aims to connect reporters with reliable sources of information.

For more on this topic, check out the upcoming Double Exposure film festival and symposium. A session on whistleblowing features Theranos whistleblower Erika Cheung.

The stakes are rising for whistleblowers across the globe. In the United States, whistleblowers are facing prosecution under the Espionage Act like never before, a charge that carries a potential life sentence for speaking up to expose wrongdoing. Elsewhere, whistleblowers face financial and professional ruin, smear campaigns and–in some countries–targeted assassination. What does this mean for the watchdogs in print and film?
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Danske Bank Whistleblower EU testimony
Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson testifies during hearing at the EU Parliament Brussels, Belgium November 21, 2018. https://www.whistleblowers.org
The now famous Danske Bank Whistleblower, Howard Wilkinson, testified before the TAX3 European Parliament Committee last week.

The statement was given on the day after the European Parliament’s legal affairs Committee adopted its report on the whistleblower protection Directive  – which was significantly stronger than expected.

Wilkinson reported suspicious financial transactions at Danske 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.
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Danske Bank Whistleblower EU testimony
Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson and whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn testify during hearing at the EU Parliament Brussels, Belgium November 21, 2018. https://www.whistleblowers.org

Whistleblower’s Lawyer Calls for End to NDAs that Restrict Rights of Whistleblowers to Report Crimes to Law Enforcement

November 21, 2018. Washington, D.C.  In testimony given today in Brussels, Belgium before the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Financial Crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance Danske, Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson testified concerning the contents of the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) he was required to sign as a condition of obtaining severance pay at the Danske Bank.
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Whistleblower Lawyer Stephen M. Kohn
Whistleblower attorney Stephen Kohn. ©Leslie Rose Photography

Qui Tam attorney Stephen Kohn asked to offer Expert Testimony on “best practice” for European Whistleblower Law

November 21, 2018. Washington, D.C.  The attorney for Danske Bank money-laundering whistleblower Howard Wilkinson has been invited to testify before the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Financial crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance in Brussels, Belgium as an expert witness on whistleblower rights. 
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Danske Bank Whistleblower
Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson and attorney Stephen Kohn arrive to hearing at the Danish parliament in Copenhagen, Denmark, November 19, 2018. ©Leslie Rose Photography

November 20, 2018. Washington, D.C. On November 21, at 9:20am (Central European Standard Time – 3:30am Eastern Standard Time).  The Danske Bank money-laundering whistleblower Howard Wilkinson will testify before the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Financial Crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance in Brussels, Belgium. Wilkinson, a former employee at Danske Bank’s Estonia office, uncovered a massive money-laundering scandal involving billions of dollars flowing out of Russia. 
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Howard Wilkinson Danish Parliament
Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson and attorney Stephen Kohn speak to reporters outside hearing at the Danish parliament in Copenhagen, Denmark, November 19, 2018. ©Leslie Rose Photography

Former Employee’s Warnings Were Ignored by Danske Bank Officials

Today the Danish Parliament heard testimony from Howard Wilkinson, the lone whistleblower in the Danske Bank money laundering scandal. Outside the hearing room the hall was full of reporters looking for comment from Mr. Wilkinson and his whistleblower lawyer, Stephen M. Kohn.  Due to warnings from Danske Bank, which explicitly warned him that he could face criminal or civil prosecution for speaking on the money laundering issues, little has been heard from Mr. Wilkinson prior to today’s appearance.
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Stephen-M-Kohn-Global-Whistleblower-AttorneyNovember 12, 2018. Washington, D.C. The leading whistleblower and qui tam attorney in the United States, Stephen M. Kohn is referred to as the “Dirty Harry” of Financial Fraud by the Danish press.  Kohn represents Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson, who uncovered what some are calling the largest money-laundering scandal in world banking history. 
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european-money-laundering
Photo credit: TaxRebate.org.uk

Washington, D.C. November 8, 2018. Organizers of the OffshoreAlert Conference announced that the leading whistleblower attorney in the United States, Stephen M. Kohn, will speak at next week’s conference in London held at Grange St. Paul’s Hotel, November 12-13. Kohn will give his presentation on Tuesday, November 13 at 1:15 pm.
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