April 20, 2021

Voice of America Oversight Agency Finds Charges Against Whistleblower Unsubstantiated

Dr. Setareh Derakhshesh Sieg, Former Director of the VOA Persian News Network, Cleared of All Allegations of Wrongdoing

WASHINGTON—Today, Government Accountability Project and the Law Office of Mark S. Zaid P.C. applaud the Voice of America’s (VOA’s) April 15, 2021 dismissal of another unsubstantiated internal investigation launched by Trump political appointee Michael Pack. Mr. Pack is the former head of the agency overseeing VOA, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM).  He resigned on January 20, 2021, at the request of President Biden.

The internal investigation targeted Dr. Setareh Derakhshesh Sieg, a respected senior VOA official who is now its Director of Program Review and Special Assistant to the Director of Programming. The investigation focused on six anonymous allegations of wrongful misconduct by Dr. Sieg while she served as Director of the VOA Persian News Network (PNN) from 2014 through January 2021.

On April 15, 2021, the USAGM Office of Labor and Human Relations (LER) found all six allegations to be unsubstantiated after a lengthy and thorough investigation. Government Accountability Project and the Law Office of Mark S. Zaid P.C. successfully represented Dr. Sieg through the investigation.

The investigation was based entirely on frivolous allegations. One allegation was that Dr. Sieg did not earn a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne and that she misrepresented this fact on numerous official forms and in her application for a security clearance.  LER disagreed. It found: “This allegation was not substantiated. LER has in its possession evidence that [Dr.] Sieg earned the equivalent of a Ph.D. from the University of Paris I Pantheon – Sorbonne in France.”

Another allegation was that Dr. Sieg misused $1 million by entering into a sole-source contract with well-known Iranian comedian Max Amini. She also allegedly violated anti-nepotism rules because Dr. Sieg and Mr. Amini supposedly had a familial relationship. The allegations were again not substantiated. LER found no evidence that Dr. Sieg was related to Mr. Amini or had even met him before the contract was entered into, that the only sole-source contract Dr. Sieg signed involving Mr. Amini was for $81,000, and that “[a]ll procedures were followed in connection with the sole source contract.”

Government Accountability Project Senior Counsel David Seide, who represented Dr. Sieg in the matter, said:

Mr. Pack’s willingness to authorize and permit the continuation of this investigation of Dr. Sieg, a known whistleblower, was politically motivated and a gross waste of government resources. It has been our honor and privilege to represent Dr. Sieg along with her VOA and USAGM colleagues; we applaud their perseverance and courage.

Mark Zaid, counsel to Dr. Sieg and other USAGM whistleblowers said:

Dr. Sieg was inappropriately targeted for political reasons. It is always a welcome event to see hard work pay off and clients who you know to be wrongfully attacked ultimately be completely vindicated! Dr. Sieg will continue her excellent work for VOA and promote its mission. 


Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director
Phone: 202.926.3304 

Contact: Mark S. Zaid, Esq.
Phone: 202.454.2809

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.


Mark S. Zaid is the founding Partner of Mark S. Zaid, PC. He often represents former/current federal employees, intelligence and military officers, whistleblowers and others who have grievances or have been wronged by agencies of the United States Government or foreign governments. He has been named as a Washington, D.C. Super Lawyer every year since he was profiled in 2009, as well as a “Best Lawyer” by Washingtonian Magazine in 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015 (issued bi-annually), for his national security work.