The news from Transparency International is not good.

This year’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) reveals that a majority of countries are showing little to no improvement in tackling corruption.

Our analysis also shows corruption is more pervasive in countries where big money can flow freely into electoral campaigns and where governments listen only to the voices of wealthy or well-connected individuals.

Corruption is difficult to quantify, so the worldwide anti-corruption group ranks 180 countries and territories by their “perceived levels of public sector corruption, according to experts and business people.”

It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. More than two-thirds of countries score below 50 on this year’s CPI, with an average score of just 43. Similar to previous years, the data shows that despite some progress, a majority of countries are still failing to tackle public sector corruption effectively. 

The report takes a close look at money and politics this year and concludes that the analysis “suggests that reducing big money in politics and promoting inclusive political decision-making are essential to curb corruption.”

There was good news too.


Continue Reading

The business writers at The New York Times promise a bump in white-collar crime news in 2020. At the same time, a series of reports raises concerns about oversight of the accounting industry.

From The Times:

Goldman Sachs is negotiating with the Justice Department to pay a penalty of about $2 billion for its role in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, known as 1MDB.

Accounting fraud became a particular focus of the Justice Department toward the end of 2019. In December, federal prosecutors indicted executives from Outcome Health and MiMed, and opened an investigation into whether BMW, the German automaker, manipulated its sales figures.

The 1MDB case involves 17 Goldman Sachs executives accused by Malaysia of taking  $2.7 billion of the $6.5 billion raised for the 1MDB fund.

How that case will be resolved is an open question because the Malaysian authorities are looking to recoup all of the money raised on behalf of 1MDB.

In the United States, federal prosecutors are looking at possible money-laundering and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations by Goldman.

The Times reports the money raised by the fund was to finance infrastructure and other public development projects in Malaysia. But instead, it went to pay bribes and “fuel the lavish lifestyle” of a local financier involved in the case, according to charges.


Continue Reading

The job of the investigative journalist is to look at how things are supposed to work and report when something is amiss. Sometimes they can follow a paper trail and talk to enough people on the record to get the story. Often, they need an inside source – a whistleblower.

And often the whistleblower needs the press to get the word out. Or they find themselves sucked into a news story, like it or not. A letter from a Congressional committee ends up in a Washington Post story, triggering the cascade of events now playing out. Calls from a reporter shine light on misbehavior of a legendary opera singer, TV host or movie mogul.

The relationship is never simple. The journalists and the whistleblowers don’t always have the same agenda. Depending on who is blowing the whistle and how, it often can hurt a whistleblower’s options if they run to the press first.
Continue Reading

Facebook has  “made little progress” in dealing with the problem of auto-generated pages for terror groups, according to reporting from The Associated Press

The story is a follow-up on an April report that concluded the pages “are aiding Middle East extremists and white supremacists in the United States.”

Hear more at today’s congressional hearing

Over at The Government Accountability Project, they use the upcoming film “Official Secrets” to talk about potential national security whistleblower missteps. The film, which opens at the end of August, tells the tale of British intelligence translator Katharine Gun. In 2003, she was charged under the Official Secrets Act for passing a memo to a reporter. She believed the note was from US spies asking for negative information on nations whose votes were needed for UN approval of the Iraq war.

Movies like this one demystify whistleblowing…Nonetheless, the Hollywood version of Gun’s whistleblower story contains a few key examples of risky choices that would have likely imperiled the success of a national security whistleblower, at least in the U.S.


Continue Reading

Dennis Gentilin of Macquarie University writes that whistleblowing will always take a toll, but it need not be career suicide. From The Conversation, which promises “academic rigor, journalistic flair.” 

As strange as it might sound, whistleblowers in Australia have reason to rejoice – so long as they are in the private sector.

Thanks to new laws that came into effect this month, private-sector whistleblowers have a range of new protections. This includes, in certain prescribed circumstances, the prospect of being compensated if they experience adverse outcomes after taking their concerns to the the media.

The timing is ironic, given last month Australia’s federal police launched raids on journalists and media outlets who received and published disclosures from public-sector whistleblowers. If identified and prosecuted, those whistleblowers could face lengthy prison sentences.
Continue Reading

Danske Bank Whistleblower EU testimony
Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson testifies during hearing at the EU Parliament Brussels, Belgium November 21, 2018.

The news program 60 Minutes had a piece on the Danske bank scandal and whistleblower Howard Wilkinson on Sunday. He exposed Russian money laundering scheme at the bank’s Estonia branch that 60 Minutes said involves $230 billion.

The piece also features comments from Stephen M. Kohn,Wilkinson’s whistleblower attorney and the chair of the National Whistleblower Center. Both men say that the bank was failing to comply with law designed to prevent money laundering.

From the transcript:

Howard Wilkinson: Being named as a whistleblower in a case involving dirty Russian money. It’s not a good place to be.

Steve Kroft (of 60 Minutes) : You’re still concerned?

 Howard Wilkinson: You’ve gotta be, haven’t you? The very nature of the people who want to launder money probably means that they’re not the sort that you wanna go down the pub and have a pint with.


Continue Reading

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.  
Continue Reading

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.


Continue Reading