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Protecting Whistleblowers since 1977

Where is the Report on the Allegations From WIPO Whistleblowers?

Bea Edwards, February 22, 2016

Whistleblowers at the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) are an endangered species.

Three senior officials at WIPO alleged misconduct and potential crimes on the part of the Director General, Francis Gurry, beginning about four years ago, and suffered retaliation. Miranda Brown, Special Advisor to Gurry, warned Member States that he had ordered break-ins at the offices of staff members’ he suspected were criticizing him. Moncef Kateb, the President of the Staff Union, reported that Gurry had secretly approved the shipment of sophisticated computer equipment to Iran and North Korea, and James Pooley, the Deputy Director General, filed a report about these incidents as well as Gurry’s apparent interference in a procurement process on behalf of a friend.

Gurry, from his protected perch at the head of the organization, thwarted every attempt at accountability. Although the allegations are serious, one internal inquiry after another shut down. 

According to Miranda Brown, Special Advisor to Gurry, Moncef Kateb, the President of the Staff Union, and James Pooley, the Deputy Director General, Gurry had:

  • Ordered break-ins at his staff’s offices to collect DNA that might help identify suspects he believed had written letters critical of him to WIPO Member States’ delegations:
  • Secretly authorized WIPO shipments of sophisticated U.S.-made computers and servers to North Korea and Iran, both under UN and US sanctions;
  • Authorized the opening of new patent offices for WIPO in Russia and China;
  • Failed to enforce adequate oversight practices.
  • Interfered in a procurement process to benefit an acquaintance.

Among its regulations, WIPO features a policy that prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the policy leaves discretion for the conclusions about allegations of retaliation to the Director General: Francis Gurry. Consequently, in this case, Gurry became both the defendant and the judge.

Predictably, the WIPO whistleblowers fared badly: one of them experienced such harassment that she resigned, another was marginalized until his term expired, and the third was simply sacked. Not one of the three remains employed at WIPO.

And Gurry? He was re-elected as WIPO Director General in 2014.

One year later, however, the US State Department and Senate were willing to take him on. Last fall, the State Department refused to certify that whistleblower protections were adequate at WIPO and the Congress withheld 15 percent of the US annual appropriation, holding the Organization accountable for failing to enforce anti-retaliation measures.

Meanwhile, the UN Secretariat in New York took over the investigation of Gurry, and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), now under new leadership, finalized its report about the incidents alleged, and delivered it to the Chair of the WIPO General Assembly.

There were “adverse findings.” Gurry was provided the relevant parts of the report and asked to add his explanations.

But here, the process of inquiring into Gurry’s actions seems to have stalled.

In Geneva, the Chair of the WIPO General Assembly has told delegates that he has not seen the report.

At the State Department, a spokesperson told Fox News yesterday only that: “The United States strongly supports this investigation and looks forward to learning of its findings.”

The spokesperson added that the U.S. trusts that the current chair of WIPO’s General Assemblies will “review the report and inform member states in an appropriate manner.” 

So far, however, no one is willing to divulge the conclusions of the OIOS report.  Not even one of the whistleblowers – who, under the regulations, is entitled to at least a summary and conclusions – has been able to extract it from WIPO.

The WIPO Chair should release the report about the actions of Francis Gurry to the WIPO Member States and take the long-delayed steps required to compensate the whistleblowers who risked their careers to bring their allegations to the governing bodies.