State Farm attempts to undermine the False Claims Act

On the morning of November 1, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in State Farm Fir and Casualty Company v. U.S. ex rel. Rigsby. In an attempt to avoid paying the judgement, State Farms urged the Supreme Court to automatically dismiss the False Claims Act (FCA) cases where whistleblowers violate the FCA’s seal provision (31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2)) rather than employ the balancing test that the U.S. has historically used to determine the appropriate course of action.

Justice Elena Kagan posed a very critical question to the deciding Court:

Given that the government is the beneficiary of this [seal] provision, why shouldn’t we give very significant discretion to the government?

Mandatory dismissal is not an appropriate sanction as it would undermine the Congressional intent behind the FCA. To find out why, read more here.

Posted in BLOG

Calling for Reforms Within the EEOC: Senate Must Act Now!

Earlier this month, the MISC coalition signed a solidarity letter to support measures that will combat widespread discrimination by Federal government officials. The bill, which amends the Notification and Federal Employee Anti-discrimination and Retaliation (No FEAR) Act of 2002, strengthens Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) protections for Federal employees who have been discriminated against. It also provides accountability within the Federal government for retaliatory actions.

According to Tanya Ward Jordan, President and Founder Coalition For Change (C4C):

The American people will surely benefit from the critical measures, like the anti-gag order provision, in HR 1557. Both the House and Senate have already agreed on the measure. Now, we need lawmakers to compromise on the controversial disciplinary measure so that the “anti-gag order” provision and the other transforming Federal workplace measures can be adopted into law. It has been 14 years since the No FEAR act passed. Retaliation in the Federal government is rampant and it harms the public.

Thus, this bill is crucial to the protection of Federal employee whistleblowers, as well as preserving their voices. Without discipline, reprisal by managers is being condoned by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. C4C will meet with the EEOC in November to urge them to adopt this measure.

Read more here.

Posted in BLOG, Press release

Senators Shed Light on Contractor Whistleblower Retaliation at the Department of Energy

According to a recent Congressional advisory,

Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., will be joined by federal contractor whistleblowers Sandra Black and Walt Tamosaitis at noon ET on Thursday, July 14, to release a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on whistleblower retaliation at the Department of Energy (DOE).

The full advisory and additional event details can be viewed here: bit.ly/29IvTeW

For those who cannot attend, the event will be livestreamed on Sen. Wyden’s YouTube channel at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/user/SenRonWyden

 

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House Whistleblower Caucus Member Leads Passage of OSC Reauthorization Bill

On June 21st, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed the “Thoroughly Investigating Retaliation Against Whistleblowers Act” (H.R. 4639). Introduced by Housosce Whistleblower Protection Caucus member Representative Rod Blum (R-IA) and cosponsored by Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Gerald Connolly (D-VA), this bipartisan bill reauthorizes the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) until 2021 and streamlines the OSC’s ability to conduct investigations. In a speech promoting his legislation, Rep. Blum noted that “the OSC has an immensely important role to play in protecting whistleblowers helping to root out waste, fraud and abuse,” and “this bill aims to give OSC the tools it needs…to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of OSC operations.”

Specifically, the bill:

  • Clarifies the OSC’s authority to request and receive agency information pertaining to whistleblower investigations Expands the OSC’s annual reporting requirements to better inform both policymakers and the whistleblowing community at large
  • Improves customer service during various stages ofthe review and investigative processes by establishing a pilot program to interview OSC complainants
  • Requires the OSC to issue regulations within two years of the Act’s enactment

By clarifying the OSC’s investigative authority, agencies can no longer shield managers from scrutiny. Moreover, it addresses former criticisms by establishing the pilot program to improve service, and the measures to increase reporting requirements provide greater transparency. The OSC applauds the bill for these very reasons. The OSC chief, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, thanked Rep. Blum and the cosponsors for this bill. “Rep. Rod Blum and the other sponsors of this legislation deserve our thanks for working to strengthen OSC’s ability to protect federal whistleblowers.” Special Counsel Lerner also we

lcomed “additional tools to protect federal employees and save taxpayer dollars.”

Last May, the Senate’s companion bill (S. 2968) received unanimous support in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. We urge the full Senate to quickly vote on the bill, and for both chambers to swiftly reconcile their versions and pass the OSC Reauthorization Act this Congress!

Overall, we applaud Rep. Blum and his cosponsors for reauthorizing the OSC and reaffirming government accountability.

 

The OSC Reauthorization Act is supported by the following good government and taxpayer protection groups: Government Accountability Project, ACORN8, Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation, Blacks In Government – Heritage Chapter, Demand Progress, Federally Employed Women – Legal & Education Fund, Inc., International Association of Whistleblowers, Liberty Coalition, National Taxpayers Union, Project On Government Oversight, Public Citizen, and Taxpayers Protection Alliance

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Landmark Financial Whistleblower Legislation Introduced in Senate and House

*This blog was original posted at www.whistleblower.org
Shanna Devine, February 25, 2016
The whistleblower rights community owes deep thanks to Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) for introducing the Whistleblower Augmented Reward and Non-Retaliation Act of 2016 (WARN Act). This gold standard whistleblower protection bill would provide badly needed teeth in anti-retaliation rights for those who challenge bank fraud. Specifically, it would:
  • Upgrade all financial whistleblower laws to best practice standards, while eliminating vague or contradictory language that has confused the courts;
  • Modernize and expand protection against increasingly aggressive gag orders and other tactics to silence financial whistleblowers and even deprive them of counsel;
  • Expand the scope and strength of  whistleblowing rights  and anti-retaliation remedies; Cancel the SEC’s discretion to arbitrarily reduce or withdraw whistleblower awards due to reasonable delays in filing a disclosure;
  • and Remove outdated or arbitrary limits on whistleblower rewards.

In a letter to leadership of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, GAP and a diverse group of organizations applauded introduction of the WARN Act and urged its swift passage –

As agencies with limited resources continue to prosecute Wall Street fraud tied to the 2008 financial crisis, and to probe abusive banking activities that could fuel the next crisis, the government needs all the help it can get from insiders with firsthand knowledge of corporate malfeasance. The WARN Act provides much-needed incentives and protections to industry whistleblowers, and would go a long way toward restoring public confidence in the government’s oversight of Wall Street. We urge you to pass this important legislation without delay.

This bill could not be timelier, given the trend of increased rates and severity of whistleblower retaliation in the financial industry.

An Ethics Resource Center study found that the number of employees who reported misconduct and faced retaliation nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012. More than a third who remained silent observers cited fear of retaliation as the reason.

The WARN Act would also benefit corporations, by strengthening internal reporting mechanisms. More than 90% of whistleblowers attempt to disclose the fraud they witness to their employer, and studies have shown that internal reporting is more effective to fight fraud against corporations than audits, compliance programs and law enforcement combined.

Take the case of Richard Bowen, a former Citigroup Senior Executive. In 2011, 60 Minutes aired a major expose of his whistleblowing disclosures.  Today he no longer works at Citigroup.

Mr. Bowen’s experience embodies the stakes for this bill. Its stronger rights would have given him a fighting chance to maintain his career.  Moreover, its anti-gag provisions would give banking employees the right to blow the whistle after losing their jobs.

Whistleblowers take grave risks by exercising the freedom to warn. Today banks have the freedom to gag even departed employees and further isolate the public from information they need to know.

The WARN Act is a much-needed makeover to modernize primitive laws, establish consistent legal rights, and address lessons learned from recent experience. This is good government legislation at its best.

The full letter can be viewed here

Signatories include:

Americans for Financial Reform

ACORN8

Bank Whistleblowers United

Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation

Demand Progress

Drum Majors for Truth

Gordon Hamel (White House Whistleblower)

Government Accountability Project

International Association of Whistleblowers

Mehri & Skalet PLLC

National Forum On Judicial Accountability

National Whistleblower Center

OAK (Organizations Associating for the Kind of Change America Really Needs)

OpenTheGovernment.org

Plea for Justice Program

Power Over Poverty Under Laws of America Restored (POPULAR)

Project On Government Oversight

Public Citizen

Taxpayers Protection Alliance

United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities

Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)

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House Hearing: OSC/MSPB/OGE Reauthorization

Subcommittee on Government Operations Hearing: “Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), Office of Government Ethics (OGE), and Office of Special Counsel (OSC) Reauthorization” 

Date: Wednesday, December 16, 2015 – 10:00am
Location: 2154 Rayburn HOB

Witnesses

The Honorable Walter M. Shaub, Jr.
Director
United States Office of Government Ethics

The Honorable Carolyn N. Lerner
Special Counsel
United States Office of Special Counsel

The Honorable Susan Tsui Grundmann
Chair
United States Merit Systems Protection Board

114th Congress
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