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Coalition Letter to SEC Regarding Corporate Whistleblower Protections
User Rating: / 0
Advocacy and Letters - Advocacy and Comment Letters
Written by Coalition   
Friday, 25 July 2014

July 25, 2014


The Honorable Mary Jo White
US Securities and Exchange Commission
100 F Street, NE
Washington DC 20549

 

Dear Ms. White:

 

We, the undersigned organizations, write to express our concern for the widespread and growing problem of retaliatory conduct against corporate whistleblowers. Not merely a threat to public policy, retaliation of this nature has a deleterious effect on corporate culture and growth. And, ultimately, such conduct undermines the force and efficacy of the SEC Whistleblower Program.

 

Retaliation against whistleblowers is a quiet and growing epidemic. In a 2012 supplement to its National Business Ethics Survey, the Ethics Resource Center (ERC) found that a near recordsetting 22% of employees who reported misconduct faced retaliation, up from 12% in 2007.1 More than a third of those who declined to report misconduct pointed to fear of retaliation as the reason for their silence. A culture in which employees are retaliated against or fear to speak up is a cancer that slowly grows but consistently kills and has been responsible for countless highprofile corporate scandals. Most alarming, increases in the incidence of retaliation are outpacing the overall rate of increases in Whistleblowing disclosures. Various other studies confirm the prevalence of retaliation and fear of retaliation in the corporate workplace.2

 

The commercial marketplace wants and needs guidance. We believe the majority of corporations want to do the right thing and many invest in robust ethics and compliance programs to do so. Unfortunately, corporate compliance is not a panacea. While there is a low incidence of whistleblower retaliation in companies with strong ethical program, the ERC survey found that these organizations also represent the greatest uptick in reports of retaliation. In other words, even strong ethics programs alone are an inadequate deterrent. The proposed guidance would benefit employers and whistleblowers alike by reducing the litigation expenses associated with legal uncertainties, helping companies more effectively reduce their risk of retaliationrelated liability, and ensuring that individuals who report possible misconduct, both internally and to the Commission, do so with a full understanding of their reporting options and the applicable risks and rewards. It also would benefit corporations, because most whistleblowers disclose fraud against their employer, and every study has shown that in this role they are more effective than audits, compliance programs and law enforcement combined.3

 

The success of the SEC Whistleblower Program, the health of our markets and the broader public interest are protected and served when employees can safely report wrongdoing. Indeed, an open and transparent workplace is a key barometer of a working democracy. For these reasons, we urge the SEC to take the following actions:

 

(1) Engage in appropriate rule-making to clarify and strengthen protections available to those who report misconduct internally or externally. Specifically, clarify that whistleblowers are in fact eligible for protection when they make disclosures within their respective corporations. Further, clarify that any actions made by the wrongdoer in effort to block the flow of whistleblowing evidence are illegal. Finally, clarify that it is legally protected to disclose evidence of crime or other violations of SEC rules, despite any assertions by wrongdoers that employees have stolen their “property.” These suggested solutions warrant a public hearing and careful consideration by the Commission.
(2) Launch a series of field hearings around the country to discuss the problem of workplace retaliation and explore new ways to increase reporting—both internally and externally; and
(3) Create an Advisory Committee on Whistleblower Reporting and Protection. Leveraging the staff reports from the field hearings described above and the expertise of a diverse group of participants that meet regularly, this committee will serve as a vehicle for the Commission to collate advice, best practices and recommendations related to whistleblower reporting and protection.

 

We thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important investor protection problem. As the SEC places more emphasis on the role of whistleblowers in the national enforcement program, it must also use its authority to mandate integrity, transparency and accountability in the marketplace. This is good for whistleblowers, good for business and good for our country.

 

Sincerely,

 

American Association of Small Property Owners
Americans for Financial Reform (coalition of 200+ organizations)
Atlantic States Legal Foundation
Bernabei & Wachtel, PLLC
Californians Aware
Circumpolar Conservation Union
Citizen Works
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Community Research
Consumer Action
Corporate Action Network
Defending Dissent Foundation
Employment Justice Center

Evangelicals for Social Action
Evans Law Firm, Inc.
Faculty Against Rape
Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics
Government Accountability Project
Global Witness
Heart of America Northwest
Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc.
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
International Association of Whistleblowers
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Investor Environmental Health Network
Kentucky Resources Council, Inc.
Labaton Sucharow LLP
Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum
National Coalition of Organized Women
National Consumers League
National Employment Lawyers Association
National Organization for Women
National Whistleblower Center
New Jersey Citizen Action
New Jersey Work Environment Council
New Orleans Women's Shelter
OpenTheGovernment.org
The Other 98%
Peace Fund and Peace Action Education Fund
Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice
Privacy Times
Project On Government Oversight
Public Citizen
Public Concern at Work
RootsAction.org
Sustainable Energy and Economy Network
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
The Coalition For Change, Inc.
The Multiracial Activist
Tri-Valley CAREs
WarIsACrime.org
WESPAC Foundation
West Virginia Citizen Action Group
Wild Earth Guardians
Workplace Fairness
Zuckerman Law

 

 

 1 Ethics Research Center, Retaliation: When Whistleblowers Become Victims (2012),
http://www.ethics.org/files/u5/RetaliationFinal.pdf.
2 See 2012 Corporate Governance and Compliance Hotline Benchmarking Report commissioned by The Network; Wall Street in  Crisis: Labaton Sucharow Survey of Financial Services Industry 2013.
3 PricewaterhouseCoopers and Martin Luther University Economy and Crime Research Center, Economic Crime, People,
Culture and Controls: The 4th Biennial Global Economic Crime Survey (2007), http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/economic-crimesurvey/pdf/pwc_2007gecs.pdf.; Society of Certified Fraud Examiners, 2008 Report to the Nation on Occupational Fraud and Abuse (2008), at 4. 30.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 31 July 2014 )
 
Labaton Sucharow, GAP Lead Coalition to Combat Retaliation Against Corporate Whistleblowers
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Advocacy and Letters - Press Releases
Written by Coalition   
Monday, 21 July 2014

Labaton Sucharow, GAP Lead Coalition to Outlaw Gag Orders and Combat Retaliation Against Corporate Whistleblowers

July 21, 2014
Printer-friendly version

Coalition Petitions SEC to Ban Corporate Tactics Used to Silence Whistleblowers

(Washington, DC) On the fourth anniversary of the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, better known as Dodd-Frank, Labaton Sucharow LLP, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and a growing coalition, representing more than 250 organizations and nearly two million citizens, announce they have submitted petitions with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) demanding a strengthened Whistleblower Program.

The SEC Whistleblower Program offers eligible whistleblowers the ability to report anonymously, robust employment protections and the opportunity to earn substantial monetary awards – regardless of nationality. A recent Wall Street survey, commissioned by Labaton Sucharow, found that financial services professionals were aware of unethical and illegal behavior in the workplace (23%), willing to report possible violations with the protections and incentives offered by the Program (89%) and knew about the existence of the Program (60%, up from 49% just one year earlier).

"As awareness and interest in the SEC Whistleblower Program and other similar programs has grown, they have come under stealth attack by Corporate America," said Jordan Thomas, Chair of the Whistleblower Representation Practice at Labaton Sucharow and a former Assistant Director in the SEC’s Enforcement Division. "If the SEC doesn’t adopt appropriate counter-measures, gag orders, retaliation and other forms of legal bullying will quickly erode the potential of this powerful investor protection tool." 

The first petition (rulemaking proposed by Labaton Sucharow and GAP, summary here) addresses unscrupulous legal maneuvers employed by many companies trying to silence potential whistleblowers. Examples include: preventing employees from consulting independent legal counsel, requiring notice of external reporting, demanding waivers of any future whistleblower awards, and threatening lawsuits to enforce secrecy agreements. These and other troubling legal tactics effectively topple each of the three pillars of the SEC Whistleblower Program – anonymous reporting, employment protections and monetary awards. This petition provides companies with clear guidance regarding these problematic employment agreements. The petition also urges the SEC to issue a policy statement regarding the current scope of employment protections available to SEC whistleblowers and its intent to prosecute companies that retaliate against them. 

"Virtually every corporation in America has internal policies that encourage employees to report wrongdoing and promise to protect them from retaliation for doing so," said Tom Devine, GAP Legal Director and author of The Corporate Whistleblower’s Survival Guide. "The problem is the reality gap between what these organizations say and what they do, because they have not been held accountable. Currently, corporations have little or nothing to lose from legal bullying. The worst that can happen is they won’t get away with it. The SEC can change this." 

"Retaliation against corporate whistleblowers is a quiet and growing epidemic," said Thomas. In the 2013 National Business Ethics Survey, the Ethics Resource Center found that retaliation has increased sharply since Congress passed stronger legal rights to protect whistleblowers. A near record-setting 21% of employees who reported misconduct faced retaliation, up from 12% in 2007. More than one-third of those who declined to report misconduct pointed to fear of retaliation as the reason for their silence. 

In recognition of this serious problem, a broad coalition of organizations, including Americans for Financial Reform, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the National Employment Lawyers Association, and many other prominent groups, has submitted a second petition (non-rulemaking) asking the SEC to: launch a series of public hearings to discuss the problem of workplace retaliation and ways to increase reporting, create an Advisory Committee on Whistleblower Reporting and Protection, and engage in appropriate rulemaking to clarify and strengthen whistleblower protections. A full list of coalition members is available here.

Whistleblower Summit 

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Whistleblower Protection Act, GAP encourages the public to attend the Whistleblower Summit for Civil and Human Rights in Washington D.C. beginning on July 28, 2014. As part of that effort, on July 30, National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, GAP is producing a panel discussion on financial whistleblowing held on Capitol Hill. More on that panel can be found at the link provided above. 

About the Campaign Organizers 

Labaton Sucharow has been one of the country’s premier law firms comprehensively representing businesses, institutional investors and consumers in complex securities and business litigation for more than 50 years. It was the first law firm in the country to establish a practice exclusively focused on protecting and advocating for whistleblowers who report possible securities violations to the SEC. Building on the Firm’s market leading securities litigation platform, the Whistleblower Representation Practice leverages a world-class in-house team of investigators, financial analysts and forensic accountants with federal and state law enforcement experience to provide unparalleled representation for whistleblowers. Labaton Sucharow is consistently among the top plaintiff litigation firms based upon its rankings in Chambers & Partners, The Legal 500, The National Law Journal’s Plaintiff Hot List and Benchmark Plaintiff

The Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization. A non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that litigates whistleblower cases, GAP helps expose wrongdoing to the public and actively promotes government and corporate accountability. Since its founding in 1977, GAP has represented over 6,000 whistleblowers in the court of law and in the court of public opinion, including hundreds of whistleblowers who have reported financial misconduct. GAP is also a leader in campaigns to enact or defend all federal whistleblower protection statutes, including those in the Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank laws. 
 

Contact: Zach Kouwe, Press Representative for Labaton Sucharow, Dukas Public Relations Office 
Phone: 646.808.3665, cell 551.655.4032 
EmailThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Contact: Dylan Blaylock, Communications Director, GAP
Phone: 202.457.0034, ext. 137, cell: 202.236.3733 
EmailThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

###

 
Coalition Letter to SEC Regarding Corporate Whistleblower Protections
User Rating: / 0
Advocacy and Letters - Advocacy and Comment Letters
Written by Coalition   
Monday, 21 July 2014

July 21, 2014


The Honorable Mary Jo White
US Securities and Exchange Commission
100 F Street, NE
Washington DC 20549

 

Dear Ms. White:

 

We, the undersigned organizations, write to express our concern for the widespread and growing problem of retaliatory conduct against corporate whistleblowers. Not merely a threat to public policy, retaliation of this nature has a deleterious effect on corporate culture and growth. And, ultimately, such conduct undermines the force and efficacy of the SEC Whistleblower Program.

 

Retaliation against whistleblowers is a quiet and growing epidemic. In a 2012 supplement to its National Business Ethics Survey, the Ethics Resource Center (ERC) found that a near recordsetting 22% of employees who reported misconduct faced retaliation, up from 12% in 2007.1 More than a third of those who declined to report misconduct pointed to fear of retaliation as the reason for their silence. A culture in which employees are retaliated against or fear to speak up is a cancer that slowly grows but consistently kills and has been responsible for countless highprofile corporate scandals. Most alarming, increases in the incidence of retaliation are outpacing the overall rate of increases in Whistleblowing disclosures. Various other studies confirm the prevalence of retaliation and fear of retaliation in the corporate workplace.2

 

The commercial marketplace wants and needs guidance. We believe the majority of corporations want to do the right thing and many invest in robust ethics and compliance programs to do so. Unfortunately, corporate compliance is not a panacea. While there is a low incidence of whistleblower retaliation in companies with strong ethical program, the ERC survey found that these organizations also represent the greatest uptick in reports of retaliation. In other words, even strong ethics programs alone are an inadequate deterrent. The proposed guidance would benefit employers and whistleblowers alike by reducing the litigation expenses associated with legal uncertainties, helping companies more effectively reduce their risk of retaliationrelated liability, and ensuring that individuals who report possible misconduct, both internally and to the Commission, do so with a full understanding of their reporting options and the applicable risks and rewards. It also would benefit corporations, because most whistleblowers disclose fraud against their employer, and every study has shown that in this role they are more effective than audits, compliance programs and law enforcement combined.3

 

The success of the SEC Whistleblower Program, the health of our markets and the broader public interest are protected and served when employees can safely report wrongdoing. Indeed, an open and transparent workplace is a key barometer of a working democracy. For these reasons, we urge the SEC to take the following actions:

 

(1) Engage in appropriate rule-making to clarify and strengthen protections available to those who report misconduct internally or externally. Specifically, clarify that whistleblowers are in fact eligible for protection when they make disclosures within their respective corporations. Further, clarify that any actions made by the wrongdoer in effort to block the flow of whistleblowing evidence are illegal. Finally, clarify that it is legally protected to disclose evidence of crime or other violations of SEC rules, despite any assertions by wrongdoers that employees have stolen their “property.” These suggested solutions warrant a public hearing and careful consideration by the Commission.
(2) Launch a series of field hearings around the country to discuss the problem of workplace retaliation and explore new ways to increase reporting—both internally and externally; and
(3) Create an Advisory Committee on Whistleblower Reporting and Protection. Leveraging the staff reports from the field hearings described above and the expertise of a diverse group of participants that meet regularly, this committee will serve as a vehicle for the Commission to collate advice, best practices and recommendations related to whistleblower reporting and protection.

 

We thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important investor protection problem. As the SEC places more emphasis on the role of whistleblowers in the national enforcement program, it must also use its authority to mandate integrity, transparency and accountability in the marketplace. This is good for whistleblowers, good for business and good for our country.

 

Sincerely,

 

American Association of Small Property Owners
Americans for Financial Reform (coalition of 200+ organizations)
Atlantic States Legal Foundation
Bernabei & Wachtel, PLLC
Californians Aware
Circumpolar Conservation Union
Citizen Works
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Community Research
Consumer Action
Corporate Action Network
Defending Dissent Foundation
Employment Justice Center

Evangelicals for Social Action
Evans Law Firm, Inc.
Faculty Against Rape
Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics
Government Accountability Project
Global Witness
Heart of America Northwest
Implode-Explode Heavy Industries, Inc.
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
International Association of Whistleblowers
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Investor Environmental Health Network
Kentucky Resources Council, Inc.
Labaton Sucharow LLP
Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum
Minnesota Coalition On Government Information
National Coalition of Organized Women
National Consumers League
National Employment Lawyers Association
National Organization for Women
National Whistleblower Center
New Jersey Citizen Action
New Jersey Work Environment Council
New Orleans Women's Shelter
OpenTheGovernment.org
Peace Fund and Peace Action Education Fund
Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice
Privacy Times
Project On Government Oversight
Public Citizen
Public Concern at Work
RootsAction.org
Sustainable Energy and Economy Network
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
The Coalition For Change, Inc.
The Multiracial Activist
Tri-Valley CAREs
WarIsACrime.org
WESPAC Foundation
West Virginia Citizen Action Group
Wild Earth Guardians
Workplace Fairness
Zuckerman Law

 

 

 1 Ethics Research Center, Retaliation: When Whistleblowers Become Victims (2012),
http://www.ethics.org/files/u5/RetaliationFinal.pdf.
2 See 2012 Corporate Governance and Compliance Hotline Benchmarking Report commissioned by The Network; Wall Street in  Crisis: Labaton Sucharow Survey of Financial Services Industry 2013.
3 PricewaterhouseCoopers and Martin Luther University Economy and Crime Research Center, Economic Crime, People,
Culture and Controls: The 4th Biennial Global Economic Crime Survey (2007), http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/economic-crimesurvey/pdf/pwc_2007gecs.pdf.; Society of Certified Fraud Examiners, 2008 Report to the Nation on Occupational Fraud and Abuse (2008), at 4. 30.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 31 July 2014 )
 
Floating Away in a Cloud
User Rating: / 0
Blog, Commentary and Articles - Science and Technology
Written by James Landrith   
Sunday, 22 June 2014
I've written before about organization and data storage with regard to my use of PIMs, PDAs and smartphones (here, here and here).  This will be a bird's eye view of my current process.  I will write a more in-depth piece later for those looking to get better organized and gain more control of their piles and processes.

I'm feeling a lot better about my digital record-keeping.  I've been using PDAs and then smartphones starting in 1995 with an awesome (then) Radio Shack PDA, moving to Palm devices and then finally onto iPhones.  

My calendar, contacts, tasks and memos have been digital since the days of LotusNotes in 1992ish and then onto Outlook, always exporting and importing the data to whatever software package fit my needs at the time.  I've been using Outlook at home for several years as most of my employers were on that platform so it made life simpler in that respective.  I had long since outgrown it and tired of data files closing improperly and often losing the ability to send from the desktop, etc.

I went as paperless as possible starting in 2005 and scanned in paper records dating back to the 1970s and shredding huge piles of dead trees. The hard part of scanning and filing was done, but it took a while for the software and service providers to catch up.  I wanted to be able to access my data online anywhere, have a locally hosted copy and the ability to access, edit and sync between devices and locations.  A lot of interesting packages came and went that could do SOME, but not all. Either it had a great desktop solution, but no online access, or it was device hosted only and not able to be edited on the desktop or backed up in a format that could be edited.  Or, it existed online only and I had no way to ensure a local backup.  Rather than invest time and effort in a fly by night solution that would be bankrupt or unsupported in six months, I decided to bide my time and continue to add to my digital stockpiles.  I refused to trust my data to a platform I could not manipulate or backup locally.

Recently, I made some decisions on which services to use going forward.  Over the last month, I was able to get all of my cloud synced services on track for key data points.  No more isolated data islands or patchwork third pary applications that kinda, sorta, sometimes worked right.

I started using Evernote obsessively and was able to back up decades worth of already archived digital records in the cloud, portable devices and locally on my laptop. I imported all of my notes and memos from iCloud (backed up in Outlook) and my archives from Toodledo as well.

Through iCloud, all emails are now forwarded to one box with a unified archive of 20 years of emails from all accounts in one place, accessible from the cloud and backed up locally in Outlook.  I was already on that platform for my calendar, contacts, memos, tasks and schedules (before moving memos and tasks to Evernote).  

I was previously using Gmail to collect and forward my old hotmail, yahoo and aol accounts to my james AT jameslandrith DOT com account.  Over time though, Gmail lost my enthusiam due to frequent forwarding problems, duplications and inability to create folders, not to mention privacy concerns. Sorry, but tagging alone doesn't work for me.  I need the ability to separate into folders as well. Outlook.com (a massive improvement to Windows Live and HotMail) has really improved its service and if I had not already been on the iCloud platform, I may have gone that way.  I still have a HotMail account and have kept up with it since signing up in 1995 or 1996 (before Microsoft acquired it), so converting to Outlook.com would have been simple.  It is still an option if I decide that I don't like the iCloud interface for email.  I'm just happy that my archive and new mail can all be accessed so easily now.

My domain name email address is still active, but now forwarding to my iCloud email address. No one needs to update my contact information.  All of my old email addresses still reach me at the same inbox. I no longer maintain a separate email box for the website.  It was never a necessity and turned out in the long-term to be a battery vampire on my devices. All of that email is now in the merged iCloud database anyway.

All of my e-books are organized with Calibre (portable edition) and my music is all backed up with iTunes via the iCloud.  I use a Nook to read eBooks as well, but keep all of my books, regardless of format housed in a Calibre library.  The majority of my magazine subscriptions (mostly professional) are in electronic format as well.  Old paper copies of newsletters and booklets were scanned and recycled long ago.

I can now get to what I want when I want and do not fear data losses either at the provider level or on my own devices anymore.  It has taken a lot of work to get this far, but maintenance is a habit now, not a chore or a task.
Last Updated ( Sunday, 22 June 2014 )
 
Sometimes
User Rating: / 1
Poetry - Poetry written in the 21st Century
Written by James Landrith   
Tuesday, 13 May 2014

I think I'll call this one "sometimes."

 

Sometimes, you need to pick up your oldest son from the Metro at 9:30 pm.

 

Sometimes, you think you feel something crawling up your leg in the dark as you drive up the road.

 

Sometimes, you ignore it and think it is probably just the air conditioning tickling your leg.

 

Sometimes, you stop at a red light and decide to change the station because that song you didn't like in the 1980s isn't any better in 2014.

 

Sometimes, there is an OMG BIG FUCKING SPIDER looking back at you from the channel display as if it owns the place.

 

Sometimes, you wage a small war in your own car.

 

Sometimes, you win.

 

Sometimes.

 
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