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Corporate & Financial Accountability
Highlights of Corporate & Financial Accountability Program:
- Program area launched over a decade ago after playing a key role adding highly significant whistleblower protections to the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform legislation.
- In combination with other corporate reform laws developed since 2007 over 80,000,000 corporate employees are now substantially covered by whistleblower protections who previously had only minimal legal protection.
- Protections now available to employees of nearly all federal government contractors, food production facilities regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), manufacturing or retailing companies whose products are regulated by the federal government, health insurance companies, and any firms receiving federal stimulus funds.
- The climax of this legislative campaign was the passage in 2010 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform covering banks and financial firms. The new law included substantial amendments to Sarbanes-Oxley superseding the numerous federal court decisions that had narrowed the effectiveness of that law, such as the elimination of the right to jury trials and the exemption from coverage of subsidiaries of covered companies . The amendments also included far reaching new provisions prohibiting corporate employee contracts that forced employees to submit their whistleblower claims to arbitration and waive their access to courts.
In summary, there has been a revolution in the rights of corporate employees to blow the whistle. There are now three major problems we must address as we focus on fully implementing the new rights under Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley:
- The first problem is that few employees know of these rights, in part because the best way to achieve our legislative victories was to strategically refrain from drawing attention to them. In that way, corporate lobbyists spent their energies focused on the federal regulatory issues, not the employee provisions.
- The second problem is corporate resistance to these laws, including: corporate attempts to criminalize whistleblowing; corporate challenges to provisions requiring the reinstatement of whistleblowers after favorable Department of Labor (DOL) investigative rulings but before the adjudication of the cases; corporate attempts to force chilling agreements on departing employees and gag settlements on whistleblowers; and banking industry challenges to whistleblowers who, under the new law, are now allowed to use confidential corporate documents as evidence to prove their cases.
- The final problem is the federal government’s glacial pace in resolving complaints and frequent reluctance to regulate, address and reform financial and banking corruption as revealed by whistleblowers.
Beginning in 2011, GAP moved in a new direction toward effective implementation of these laws. These efforts included: ensuring that the federal regulations accurately reflected the whistleblower statutes; eliminating the requirement that corporate employees blow whistles internally in order to be eligible for bounty awards related to disclosures of financial misconduct; training Department of Labor (DOL) investigators at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) who are on the frontlines of most of enforcement of the laws; filing new whistleblower cases to test these laws; launching GAP’s American Whistleblower Tour on college campuses and law schools to introduce corporate whistleblowers and describe the new laws; and publishing GAP’s international award-winning book: The Corporate Whistleblower’s Survival Guide: A Handbook for Committing the Truth.
In 2012 and 2013 GAP worked with two international trade unions – SEIU and UNITE HERE – to launch a pilot “Know Your Rights Campaign” (KYRC) to inform bank employees of their newly-won rights through:
- the distribution of the corporate handbook
- extensive ground outreach efforts by coalition partners in dozens of major metropolitan areas
- the launch of a GAP website providing information about whistleblower protections under Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley, whistleblower survival tips and advice for filing complaints with the DOL
- engagement of social media, combined with traditional media efforts