By COREY ARWOOD
Despite the impending snow storm, whistleblower Dr. Eric Ben-Artzi spoke to a crowded auditorium Monday night.
Ben-Artzi, former risk analyst and vice president of the Legal, Risk and Capital Division of Duetsche Bank reported evidence of potential multi-billion dollar securities violations.
“What they did wasn’t very different from printing money,” Ben-Artzi said.
And what would have happened had Ben-Artzi not blown the whistle? Nothing, Ben-Artzi said.
The issue would have disappeared, and the bank would have gotten away with what he said was essentially inventing assets and ignoring losses; actions that ultimately undermine the soundness of the financial system, Ben-Artzi said.
His tale was also precautionary.
Relationships with management cooled. Coworkers aware of the scenario isolated him.
Deutsche Bank retaliated by eventually firing Ben-Artzi without notice after he returned from paternity leave, stating his position had been moved to Germany. The termination had an extra element of retaliation, he said.
“Wall Street is a small place,” Ben-Artzi said. By leaving him unemployed and trying to find a job in the financial sector he was essentially black-listed, he said.
“Initially I was alone, and that’s a very scary place to be,” Ben-Artzi said. He was up against what he called a huge “take-no-hostages corporation.”
It was then he enlisted the legal services of the Government Accountability Project.
His visit to the University was part of the third annual Government Accountability Project’s Whistleblower Tour.
The stop was sponsored by the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business’ School of Accountancy, and was coordinated, Dr. Sarah Stanwick.
Stanwick is an associate professor in the School of Accountancy.
“We filled the room with students and with professors. We had members of the community here as well. So we’re very excited with the positive response,” said Stanwick.
The moderator was Dana Gold, a GAP senior fellow and Whistleblower Tour director.
“I always worry that these events will have the effect of chilling people. But, I also think they’re valuable because they’re provocative. They make people think ‘what would I do in the face of wrongdoing?’, and how important it is to speak out…,” said Gold.
Gold said the focus of these tour stops is not only set on future whistleblowers, but also future management.
“…What happens if you’re a manager or a coworker, and someone tells you about wrongdoing or comes to you with a problem? Maybe these events can help educate people to realize that the right response isn’t to retaliate against the person who’s disclosing this problem. The right response is to say ‘Thanks let’s investigate,'” said Gold.
She said that otherwise the workplace environment becomes chilled.
“You’re basically squandering you’re best risk management tool [the whistleblower],” Gold said.
She stressed the importance of Ben-Artzi’s actions, stating that the only way the public can become aware of the complex unethical, and potentially criminal, activities of the financial sector is through ethical employees.
At the end of the discussion audience members had the opportunity to ask questions.
Ben-Artzi, when asked by a student if would do it again, said that was a hard question to answer. He offered the advice of reporting concerns anonymously if possible. His position prevented this, he said.
However Ben-Artzi later said, “If you see something like this and you’re outraged, you won’t have a choice.”