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.
Is the tide turning on whistleblower rights? There are signs of hope. First, ATF director B. Todd Jones clarified his remarks on what seemed to be a threat to his employees not to blow the whistle outside the chain of command. Now, Jones is reaffirming ATF employees’ rights under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
Second, a psychologist who blew the whistle about child abuse on an Indian reservation and was harassed for it is no longer under duress. Congressional and media pressure has resulted in a full reversal of several adverse actions taken against him by the Indian Health Service.
Not so fast: The Food and Drug Administration is apparently engaging in a classic character assassination campaign against the ringleader of the FDA 9, a group of scientist/whistleblowers who have been targeted for spying and harassment. The New York Times served up what has been received as a biased, personality-focused hit piece, but not before the editorial board criticized the FDA for engaging in spying. In some ways, this ambiguity completely reflects how people feel about whistleblowers. Still, NYTimes, wtf?
–Open government groups, led by the Government Accountability Project, issued rules for prior restraint of whistleblowers’ speech. I have called for the lead lobbyist’s resignation after the end of this congressional session.
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.
–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.
“Choices and consequences simply means that, as an employee of [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives], should you decide not to abide by the standards of conduct or the rules of the road, should you decide that you’re not going to play by the rules, there will be consequences. . . . Choices and consequences means simply that if you make poor choices, that if you don’t abide by the rules, that if you don’t respect the chain of command, if you don’t find the appropriate way to raise your concerns to your leadership, there will be consequences, because we cannot tolerate, we cannot tolerate an undisciplined organization.”
Of course, he doesn’t tell his employees they have the right to go outside the chain of command. And they do. His name is B. Todd Jones. He’s the Acting ATF Director. He should not be in that capacity, Acting or otherwise.
“[National Whistleblowers Center Executive Director Stephen Kohn] said Jones’ specific use of words in the context of the video clearly misleads workers into believing they legally can’t go to Congress, outside inspectors general and the Office of Special Counsel to report wrongdoing.”
“’There are many cases that say whistleblowers can ignore the chain of command. In fact, under the Whistleblower Protection Act, you may lose protection if you only report to your first line supervisor, and going outside chain is a way to get protection,” Kohn said. “Also, the WPA says that ‘any disclosure’ is protected, not just disclosures made in the ‘appropriate way.’”
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