Dissenters’ Digest takes a look back at news stories covering whistleblowers, watchdogs, and government accountability. Look for it every other Saturday evening at www.dissentersdigest.com.
Chilling Effect: Acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones spoke in an internal video to ATF employees where he appeared to admonish his subordinates not to blow the whistle outside the chain of command, lest they face “consequences.” He did not mention they have the right to do so under numerous laws, including the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and the Lloyd-La Follette Law of 1912, which allows civil servants to communicate with Congress without prior restraint. Sen. Chuck Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa are investigating.
If Nixon had Keylogging Software: The New York Times reported last week that the Food and Drug Administration’s suspected surveillance of whistleblowers is bigger than previously believed, and includes tracking of sources outside the agency.
The FDA reportedly has developed an “enemies list” to push back against negative coverage of its oft-criticized review of drugs and medical devices. The list includes not only scientists employed within the FDA, but also congressmen, journalists, and outside medical researchers. These efforts have resulted in the collection of some 80,000 pages of documents that include private emails to Congress, draft whistleblower retaliation complaints, and communications with journalists and attorneys.
What’s In Your Wallet?: The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau announced its first enforcement action: a $210 million settlement with Capital One for deceptive marketing practices.
The allegations include misleading consumers about the benefits of Capital One products, which were not always depicted as optional. Some consumers were knowingly sold products they could not utilize, and others succumbed to “high-pressure tactics” to buy add-ons like payment protection and credit monitoring. In some instances, Capital One enrolled consumers in products without their consent, or led them to believe there was no additional cost.
Capital One will fully refund its customers at a cost of $140 million and pay another $25 million to the CFPB and another $35 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, totaling $210 million.
In other news, in-house corporate attorneys are concerned about CFPB enforcement actions.
Full disclosure: I have a Capital One card in my wallet.
Below the Fold:
–An environmental watchdog takes a look at Governor Romney’s anti-civil service track record in Massachusetts.
–24 percent of Wall Street executives believe they need to break the law to succeed; 16 percent would commit insider trading if they could get away with it, according to a survey done by the whistleblower law firm Labaton Sucharow.
–The Justice Department and the FBI are reviewing thousands of criminal cases to determine whether any defendants were wrongly convicted because of flawed forensic evidence. The whistleblower who first brought this to light almost 20 years ago will be monitoring progress. Legislation has already been introduced.
–A Navy whistleblower is now in charge of investigating whistleblower cases in the Defense Department.
–Penn State officials knew.
–A federal district court judge blew the whistle, in a way, about coercive plea bargain tactics that demand waiver of appeal rights in lieu of going to prison on unreasonably heavier charges.
–Some news outlets let political operatives approve quotes before they appear in print. Why not also let them write the articles?
–FDA isn’t the only agency snooping on its employees.
–The American Federation of Government Employees reached an agreement with the TSA to provide TSA officers personnel appeal rights at the Merit Systems Protection Board.
–The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission approved an 18-year-long race discrimination class action lawsuit brought by U.S. Marshals against the U.S. Marshal Service.
–The White House issued a memo to strengthen the rights of service members who return home and seek to reintegrate into the working force.
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