tv Washington Journal Stephen Kohn CSPAN July 30, 2019 12:16pm-12:50pm EDT
>> author and historian lee edwards will be our guest on in-depth sunday from noon to 2:00 p.m. eastern. mr. edwards is the author of just right, plus a collection of niagara fees on william f buckley, barry goldwater and ronald ragan. watch in-depth with author lee edwards from noon to 2:00 p.m. eastern. the national book festival on book tv on c-span2. >> steven cohen is a leading u.s. whistle lower attorney chairman of the board of directors at the national whistleblower center going us today on what is national whistleblower's appreciation day. is july 30 national whistleblower's appreciation day? >> well, in 1778 at the height of the united states revolution,
the u.s. congress passed our first whistleblower law and they did it when whistleblowers sailors and marines had criticized the commander of the u.s. navy and cooing criticizing him for mistreating british prisoners. so this was embarrassing to the u.s. governor -- government. but think about it. the founding fathers put everything on the line. this wasn't an election. if they lost the revolution they are going to get home for treason. in the middle of that revolution they paused. they said every inhabitant of the united states should report waste, fraud and corruption even if it embarrassed the new government. and not only did they pass that law they then voted money for the lawyers for the bristle -- whistleblowers who had been thrown in jail and they released all the papers that were
controversial, that were embarrassing to the government. and the whistleblowers won their case. andand that was july 30, 1778. so this is not some token day. this is a day for every american to sit back and say, whistleblowers have been with us for a long time and they've done an incredible job. the term we use whistleblower in 1778? guest: no. that came into use in the 1960's and early 70's. nobody really knows the origins. it was in some detect books in the 20's, 30's and 40's. they say it comes from the british police lowing the whistle to get support. nobody really knows. host: you've written a handbook for would-be whistleblowers and rule number one in that handbook which we have on the desk with us you say is for whistleblowers to use the legal tools available to them today. what are those legal tools for
would-be whistleblowers? guest: there's been a revolution and most people don't know it. whistleblowers now have some of the most powerful anticorruption tools available ever. there's nothing like it. whistleblowers can go anonymously. confidentially. they can report the largest frauds in banking, securities, commodity exchange. government contracting. and they can qualify for financial which means you don't have to wait until you are fired and a jury gives you a judgment because your life has been ruined. if your information is good and leads to a successful enforcement you can get a percentage and it's working. last year the u.s. government whistleblowers over $800 million whistleblowers over $800 million in and no one even knows that. host: who is bradley birkenfeld?
who worked inr switzerland for at the time the largest bank in the world, the ubs. he was the first major bank whistleblower. thousands of americans had illegal hidden accounts in switzerland. hiding their money, evading taxes. one, athe first whistleblower who came into the united states, turned in the information triggering the largest and most successful fraud prosecution ever. 50,000 americans turned themselves in to a voluntary amnesty program. over 16 billion in sanctions collected through the swiss bank program. ubs had to pay a $780 million received theenfeld largest whistleblower award ever $104 to an individual, million. you may say, holy toledo. this guy got $104 million for
blowing the whistle? but why did they do it. i spoke to the head of the irs in their whistleblower office. that $104 million was pennies to the dollar. it was advertising to every banker in the world that if you turn in your american clients who have illegal accounts or our money laundering, who were hiding their wealth, ripping off the taxpayer, you can get a the firstt: when was time we paid a whistleblower? guest: that's amazing. the earliest whistleblowers were passed by the first congress of the united states. in 1789, 1790. you have to go back in history. the time of the american revolution when they passed this whistleblower law on july 30 there was a concept of bringing
the people into government. use the power of the people for democracy. first lawse very passed by the u.s. congress work qui tam, known as in the name of the king. it was empowering people to act with the powers of government and then they could collect a reward that if they turned in criminals and obtained a their information was solid, they could get up to 50% of what was collected by the government. host: whistleblowing is our topic for the next half-hour on the washington journal. you can join us in this conversation. democrats (202) 748-8000. republicans (202) 748-8001. (202) 748-8002. setting aside a special line for whistleblowers if you have done it, if you are thinking about doing it. (202) 748-8003. stephen kohn is chairman of the
national whistleblower center. explain what that is. guest: it's a nonprofit, tax-exempt, completely nonpartisan. we will work with democrats, republicans. as i like to say, a bribe doesn't know what party you are from. democrat, republican, independent. anyone can be corrupt. it's absolutely essential that people inside these criminal thepiracies, people with inside knowledge of the corruption can come forward. that's what whistleblowing is all about. host: what's the legal process if you decide to become a whistleblower? guest: now you go into the word of chaos. differentactually 50 whistleblower laws in the united states. each sector of the economy has their own. there are certain superpowerful laws the false claims act, securities exchange, dodd frank. these are really really good.
then you have some that aren't so good. it's as simple as that. so the process is you got to find out what your rights are under the ball that covers you. and then try to find the best one. host: it's the new whistleblowers handbook it was there an old one? chest coat the first one came out in 2010, 2011. outuest: the first one came in 2010, 2011. the really best whistleblowing out there is totally different. it's the opposite of the stereotypes. it's working with the government. it's being confidential. being anonymous. being key sources of correction. bank fraud. tax fraud. fraud in contracting. fraud and bribery. and partnering what we come to see as really good and honest government investigators.
and clobbering these large corporations that are engaged in wrongdoing. you picked ar why bank of microphones as the picture on the cover. guest: that was the first one has that. it was the whistleblower going to the press. a large public disclosure would still happen. that was the cover the publisher had. now i would have someone with dark sunglasses in the corner. host: rhode island is a first. christine is a democrat. good morning. caller: good morning. good topic. i was watching a hearing on the whistleblower for the v.a. a couple weeks ago. thank god we do have whistleblowers that they do need more protection and follow-through. found six to $8 million missing from the suicide for the
military and so that was one of the statements the whistleblower had brought up. so they do need a lot of oversight and support. especially the corruption that's going on in the v.a. right now. so the v.a. is one of the worst agencies for whistleblowers. more whistleblowers come out of the v.a. than any other federal agency. muchthe v.a. has pretty the worst whistleblower laws. at the employees are lower end of protection and now, hold onto to your seed. there is a board that is supposed to protect federal employee whistleblowers but there are now no members on this board. this board can't act. it hasn't been able to issue a decision for two years. we have a case of a whistleblower from the army corps of engineers, blew the whistle on fraud. won her case years ago.
but we appealed one issue because we wanted to win everything this whistleblower deserved and it stalled at this board with no members, no ability to go to federal court for years. almost- it's schizophrenia. if you are blowing the whistle on securities fraud or tax fraud or even a foreign bribery you have fantastic whistleblower laws. but if you are in the v.a. you've got the worst. and we are trying to fix it. to fix that. all the whistleblowers deserve the best. lawrence is in florida. independent. good morning. caller: as a whistleblower you have to be part of a company or can you be a private citizen and you also have to have absolute proof of this, right?
guest: you can be a private citizen. uponber the 1778 law calls all inhabitants of the united states. the qui tam laws speak of empowering the citizens. your turns out most of whistleblowing comes from employees. because they know where the corruption is within large institutions. it also comes from government where employees know who's taking a bribe or who committing malfeasance. but you do not have to be a government employee. if you have original information about illegal activity, you can qualify and you can qualify for a reward under these superduper whistleblower laws. throw atouple names to you. edward snowden, chelsea manning, julian assange. guest: so assange is not to he's a publisher print he's in a totally different category p he is not. the other two are. because they made a disclosure
of information that was of public interest and included official wrongdoing. the problem with both of those cases is that they went about it in a way that was illegal and they got themselves in big trouble. mission is to educate whistleblowers on how to do it lawfully, how to protect themselves, how to accomplish their goals without going to jail or getting fired. host: what are the rules for members of the military and members of the intelligence committee? guest: the military has a very interesting whistleblower law that lets you go to congress. if you remember abba grabe prison. a whistleblower came out of there. that whistleblower went to congress and was protected. it was a law that we helped write and push forward many years ago. it was also in the 1778 law.
they protected those whistleblowers in 1778 because they went to congress. that's one of the safest places to go even if you are in the intelligence. as another law out there that whistleblowers need to be aware of which is obstruction of justice. and the losses that if you have information about a crime and you go to federal law enforcement can report it, any person. if you are subject to retaliation, that person who can go to against you prison for 10 years. so the federal obstruction of justice statute creates a public policy. it sends a message that if you want to blow the whistle one safe place to go is federal law enforcement. another safe place to go is congress. or you can use the superduper laws and these laws are really powerful, really effective and they each have very specified procedures.
host: we have set aside a special line for whistleblowers on a national whistleblower appreciation day. (202) 748-8002 is that number --(202) 748-8003 is that number. melvin is calling in on that line out of fort pierce, florida. go ahead. caller: i was trying to find out alsoe whistleblowers would cover homeowners associations because some of the things that are going on are definitely outside of the scales of what legal or notnk is considered discrimination. guest: almost every state has some whistleblower laws. some are very strong in some states. new jersey has some excellent laws. district of columbia. california. badr states have pretty laws like alabama and even new york. but that's where you would go.
and for something like a homeowners association most likely you'd find support under state whistleblower laws. the other thing you want to look at, is there any government money going into these entities. that's another very good place to look at. this spending of government money, contracts or grants. if that's the case the odds are you'll have a very good whistleblower law. host: you talk about how much money has been paid out to whistleblowers in the past year. what part of the government has the most whistleblowers? the moste v.a. has whistleblowers by far. every other government agency has some. the federal government has a terrible track record on whistleblowing. terrible. and one of the reasons is it's kind of like this. if you let gm write to the whistleblower law for the auto industry. what do you think it will look like?
is essentially the employer of the federal government employees. they've written the worst law for federal government employees. it's terrible. and the fact that this board, there's not even a member of it. it means no whistleblower retaliation case can even be decided let alone ruled against. it's horrendous. host: out of tennessee, this is a democrat. good morning. caller: how are you? i worked for the federal government already seven years. i'm 72 years old. been retired 17 years. the 1980's i ratted out a guy who was making personnel decisions. the guy was a holy roller. he was making personnel based on his warped
religious beliefs. and i found out later, years this that they acted upon and i found out all the details later on and it was really funny. you find all kind of nuts working for the federal government and they've got unlimited power. read in tennessee. anything you want to comment on? guest: federal employees have a lot of power over a lot of people. whistleblower laws are essential and they are essential in the federal government as they are in state government and big companies. i want to say that even though federal employees have a hard time of it, whistleblowers are
still the number one source of all fraud to action period. -- detection period. that's why the laws have gotten better. that's why they've created these very strong laws and anonymity. when they look at fraud detection it's like fraud is designed to be hidden. a good bribe no one knows ever happened. so you need the insider. and what they found is as they've increased these whistleblower laws and have made them stronger and stronger, aliens have flown into the treasury. people have gone to prison. accountability has gone up. and the decision-makers and believe me, these aren't like pro whistleblower people. they said, this is the way to stop it. so throughout the entire economy federal government or non-, whistleblowers are number one fraud detection. host: you said whistleblowers have a hard time of it. dog on twitter says do you have
examples where the career of the whistleblower was not ruined? guest: that's a great question and we dealt with people whose careers have been ruined. that's a day out. i am certain there are many honest employees, management and people have blown the whistle and have thrived. i'm certain of that. i just haven't seen it. i've seen the other side. it's been very ugly. in virginia.y independent. good morning. of those am one federal employees working at the pentagon who attempted to blow the whistle, was retaliated against, tried to work through the system. suffered horrendous retaliation. was allr, my reputation ruined. and my case is still floundering through the eeo system. i attempted to get a lawyer who
was crooked. just took me for my money. and like i said, i will probably never see my money. it was part of my retirement i've lost, i'll never see it. and it's just not that easy to find help especially when you're going up against ses. guest: what you are talking about is what is experienced by many many employees both in the federal government and elsewhere. if the laws are weak, it's very hard to get a good lawyer. the lawyers you find often are charging and then they can't win the case anyway because the law is terrible. and i want to say this to all the viewers. you have to understand what happens. if a whistleblower accuses a miniature of malfeasance -- manager of malfeasance and the whistleblower is right. they have evidence they messed it up. the manager has two choices. discredit the whistleblower,
retaliate or admit they messed up and get fired. or get demoted. the natural reaction of supervision and management to a whistleblower disclosure is almost always retaliation. it's defensive. it's to be expected. so the good laws today, the modern laws understand that. they understand that this is a very human situation. because the manager has a lot to lose if the whistleblower is right. this woman who just called in, this is the story time and time again. because the managers have massive resources. the agencies back them up. it's a cultural thing. and the whistleblower is on the receiving end. only if federal employees get real laws and real protection will these problems ever end. it twoimberly used federal terms we want you to explain. she's using the eeo system and going up against ses.
guest: this is senior executive service. it is the managerial level that often is retaliating. and the eeo is equal opportunity office. that's one pathway to try to get your pace -- case resolved. are a woman orou minority and you are a whistleblower, you can generally use the eeo process. either way the system for federal employees is broken. host: niagara falls, new york. richard. republican. good morning. caller: good morning p thank you for c-span. i remember watching a program on netflix. it was under any money. obama era anding how drug cartels were laundering americad the bank of and i was wondering whatever happened to that situation. guest: it only gets worse. i have a case right now.
$240 billion money laundering. bank of america. deutsche bank. citibank. jp morgan. dansk a bank. including our administration. so it doesn't matter. and money laundering is a gigantic problem. it is a gigantic problem because that's where people hide who owns the money and they flush it out. so money laundering remains one of the top issues. we are working with whistleblowers on it. amazingly in 2018 congress improved the irs whistleblower law and it now covers criminal money laundering. host: are there new changes to federal whistleblower law that are working their way through congress right now? guest: yes. they are hoping to push through legislation to help federal employees. it's really stalled out right now. they need access to federal court. lawy good whistleblower
lets the whistleblower get to a judge and a jury that's independent at some point. federal employees cannot. they are the only groups in the whole country that cannot. host: why not? when theyuse in 1978 passed the civil service reform act they excluded them from federal court. as i say, why did that happen? because the federal government itself, commerce and the executives, they are the employer. they want to control their workers. it's like gm passing a whistleblower bill. it's not going to happen. it's up to the american people to demand that these laws go through. host: you say it stalled out. why? guest: because we've been trying to get it. we had it once through the house, once through the senate and every time it gets blocked. every single time. and we know why. it's the bureaucracy. it's the general counsels. they gang up. they put pressure and they get some money to stall it.
market in washington, d.c., a democrat. good morning. caller: i'm an attorney and i've always considered, i have a that have ads blockbuster suit that they are considering. my question for you is twofold. if a relater matter is not picked up by the doj, is his name made public? anyhave you noticed deleterious effects due to the influence of money in politics for an executive agency to determine whether to take or not tam.up a qui guest: first, relater is the word he used. it's the word used in the original false claims act signed into law by abraham lincoln, march 2, 1863 at the height of the american revolution.
revolutionary one. again, it was president, it was congress looking to the american people to enforce these anticorruption laws so that was the term they used for whistleblower in 1863 p at the question is what's the influence? there is no doubt there is influence. money in politics et cetera. what we have actually found is the biggest problem is when the federal government employee colludes with the contractor. so the qui tam law lets you sue the contractor for government fraud in getting a contract and implementing. if there is collusion, what you find is that the federal bureaucracy doesn't like those cases. they don't want to pursue a case where the federal government itself, where employees facilitate it. and there has been a movement to
try to get federal employee rights to file these qui tam false claims so they can identify these rotten apples. again, that was stalled. within the world of whistleblowing, the biggest weakness today are the rights of federal employees and they have been stalled out. but the qui tam law is working remarkably well through all administrations. host: are you still on the line with us? caller: i'm here. host: how often do you do whistleblower work? caller: i'm not involved in whistleblower work myself. i studied in law school. i knew a couple of individuals who had some very large prospective -- guest: and my recommendation is to pursue it. because the rank-and-file attorneys at the department of justice and the u.s. attorneys offices that actually work these cases are doing a great job. they are dedicated.
they are honest. and i would never say that. because we advocate for whistleblowers. it's only because we've worked with them, we've experienced it. that's why i talk about the new whistleblowing. it's a whole new era when the whistleblower can work with effective prosecutors to get justice. you actually raised another question about can the qui tam whistleblower remain confidential. the answer to that is mixed. in most cases no. because you file in federal court. it's originally confidential. it's under seal. it eventually gets released. but the d.c. circuit just last friday issued a very important decision about the rights of whistleblowers to remain anonymous and they set up a standard for anonymity. they reversed the tax court that did not grant a whistleblower anonymity. and that standard where there is
good cause, you can get anonymity. host: one last call for you from medina, new york. betty is an independent. good morning. caller: good morning. i just want to know -- have to do with everything that's going on in america all around the world? host: what was? caller: build a burridge? the secret society where they get together every year and go to secret meetings and decide what's going to go on in the country? host: we will hold off on secret societies. guest: what i want to say about that is my experience in 35 years working with these whistleblower laws. whatever conspiracy and problems may be out there, these laws are working. and that's the message that i want to give. the irs, the security, the false claims act. they are working. they need to be supported.
they need to be encouraged. we need to protect them. host: stephen kohn is chairman of the board of directors at the national whistleblower center. he is the author of the book "the new whistleblowers handbook." we appreciate your time this morning. guest: thank you so much. thank you. >> the acting commissioner of border protection testified about migration at the southern border. you can watch that tonight at 8:00 eastern here on c-span, online at c-span.org or listen with the free c-span radio app. ♪ for 40 years, c-span has been providing america unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events from washington, d.c. and around the country. so you can make up your own mind. created by cable in 1979.
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