GAP’s Corporate & Financial Accountability program aims to hold businesses accountable by defending whistleblowers from within companies, publicizing wrongdoing and threats to the public welfare, and advocating for the reform of organization policies and legal protections.
One key and landmark protection for corporate whistleblowers was the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, passed in the wake of the Enron scandal. GAP played a paramount role in the bill’s whistleblower protection provisions. The groundbreaking law provides at-will private sector employees whistleblower protection for disclosing malfeasance that materially affects the stock price of publicly traded companies.
Corp/Fin. Accountability Highlights
GAP’s Financial Accountability work, an emerging program over the past year, is divided into two areas – international and national. This international work focuses primarily on corruption and wrongdoing that has taken place outside the United States, but that the U.S. itself was not heavily involved in. GAP’s national financial work focuses on monitoring general regulations and casework in the American financial sector which illustrates whistleblower protection reform needs to take place. Typically, this involves an American financial agency in some way. One example of this is GAP’s work with coalition members to advocate that the Department of Justice sent the wrong message by only convicting the financial whistleblower who exposed massive tax-fraud by thousands of Americans using Swiss bank accounts.
Bank Integrity Campaign
Having protected whistleblowers for over 35 years, GAP takes notice when particularly sensitive industries require special protection. After the financial crisis of 2008, we received a major boost in calls from financial industry workers wishing to report questionable behavior. That is why GAP started the Banking Integrity Campaign, specifically focused on protecting the rights of Bank whistleblowers so that they can protect us all from dangerous corporate greed and future economic disaster.
Since the campaign's initiation, GAP has represented a number of whistleblowers from major investment banks around the world. However, as with all GAP programs, the Bank Integrity Campaign does not solicit whistleblowing; so check out the Know Your Rights campaign before blowing the whistle, and make sure you’re aware of the legal protection available to you!
GAP Report Educates Whistleblowers & Lawyers about Cases Involving both Employment Protections and Bounty Rewards
Since the economic collapse began in 2008, GAP has received an influx of banking and financial institution whistleblowers' requests for assistance – including from employees working for contractors providing compliance services. Allegations include bank officials repeatedly making misleading statements to regulators, reporters and the public at large. Potentially worse, whistleblowers supervising third-party (supposedly independent) remediation efforts at these institutions have stated that many of these programs are operating in bad faith.
Banking Sector Accountability: Understanding and Handling the Complex 'SOX Plus One' Whistleblower Claim, a new "best practices" report released by GAP and authored by GAP contract attorneys Thad Guyer and Melissa Koven, aims to inform legal counsel for whistleblowers about how to navigate these types of future claims – not only under protection laws, but also under federal statutes that can provide financial rewards to clients. The report is supplemented with practical PowerPoint slides.
A term in the report's title, "SOX Plus One," refers to a whistleblower who not only seeks a remedy under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act for employment retaliation, but also any financial reward that may be available under a federal statute. These include, as detailed at length in the report, the SEC bounty provisions contained within the Dodd-Frank Act; the federal False Claims Act; the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989; and the Financial Institutions Anti-Fraud Enforcement Act of 1990. A central aim of the paper and corresponding slides is to educate whistleblowers and their lawyers to analyze, at the earliest stages, both the employment protections and bounty rewards which may be involved in these financial sector cases. Click here to read the full report.
In December 2011, the television news-magazine 60 Minutes featured a July 2011 interview of Eileen Foster, a former high-ranking official at Countrywide Financial Corp., the home loans behemoth, and then Bank of America (BofA) after its purchase of Countrywide in July 2008.
Foster, now a GAP client, reported the corrupt activities of company officials, both pre- and post-purchase. Foster oversaw an investigation of several Boston branches in the summer of 2007 that found massive evidence that employees had forged borrower signatures, altered and fabricated income and asset documentation, and manipulated the company's automated underwriting and property valuation systems. By February 2008, Foster had found equally shocking activities in investigations in Miami, Chicago, Cincinnati, San Diego, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Click here to read detailed reports about Foster's story.
In September 2008, BofA terminated Foster. In late 2011, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that BofA was wrong to terminate her, ordering her reinstatement and damages. However, BofA has appealed that order, and Foster's fight continues.
The Corporate Whistleblower's Survival Guide
GAP is proud to announce the release of the single most comprehensive publication ever created about corporate whistleblowing, The Corporate Whistleblower's Survival Guide: A Handbook for Committing the Truth. Published by Berrett-Koehler, this step-by-step guide details key information that potential business whistleblowers should know before, during, and after blowing the whistle. The book summarizes a decade-long under-the-radar legal revolution in corporate worker free speech rights.
The authors of the book, GAP Legal Director Tom Devine and former GAP investigator Tarek F. Maassarani, draw upon their years of direct experience to catalog everything that novice whistleblowers need to know. Topics include: introducing employees to their (new) rights, with references to continuing legal education for their counsel; the legal campaign strategy that is essential to supplement lawsuits; key survival tips; typical retaliatory tactics; benefits for corporate leaders wise enough to listen to their messengers instead of silencing them; "ground rules" for effective partnerships between whistleblowers and citizen activists, politicians and the media; and available resources and help groups, just to name a few.
Many high-profile whistleblowers have reviewed the book and hailed its advice on navigating every step of the whistleblowing process – from simply considering taking action to expose wrongdoing, to navigating the storm of retaliation that inevitably follows. The Corporate Whistleblower's Survival Guide enables readers to bring vital information to light while keeping their sanity, relationships, and careers intact.
More on the book is available here.
Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173)
The Financial Regulatory Reform includes gold standard whistleblower protections, ensuring greater enforcement of the law. GAP staff was very active in working with federal representatives to shape the whistleblower protection sections of this law. More about this law can be found on our Recent Legislative Victories page. Update (6/15/11): Thad Guyer, GAP Adjunct Attorney and partner at T.M. Guyer and Ayers & Friends, has prepared an analysis of the whistleblower provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act. To date, it is the most comprehensive treatment of the law since the May 25, 2011 final regulations were issued, and it should serve as an aid to corporate whistleblowers and whistleblower advocates.
GAP's Corporate & Financial Accountability Director is Louis Clark