In Remembrance of Cooper Brown 

It is with great sadness that we announce that the Honorable E. Cooper Brown, director of Government Accountability Project’s Corporate Responsibility Program, has passed away. His professional life as an attorney was devoted in equal parts to advocacy on behalf of workers, adjudicating whistleblower and compensation rights of employees as a judge at the Appeals Review Board (ARB) of the United States Department of Labor (DOL) and as Chair of the Compensation Review Board of the District of Columbia Government.

Judge Brown served his first term at DOL’s ARB during the Clinton administration. President Obama reappointed him to a second term, this time as Vice-Chair of the Board. During both terms at the ARB, he established far-reaching precedents with his rulings that are helpful to litigants on behalf of workers. Most notably, he helped to stem the tide of cases that had ominously begun to lessen the burden of proof necessary for corporate bosses to justify adverse personnel actions directed against whistleblowers, even when those whistleblowers were able to show a connection between their disclosures and the adverse action.

Upon his arrival at Government Accountability Project, Judge Brown immediately returned to his advocacy on behalf of workers. Serving as Director of Corporate Responsibility and on the Case Management Committee, he soon developed his own docket of cases on behalf of whistleblower clients at the Department of Veterans Affairs and other agencies, helped litigators strategize and pursue their cases, expanded our outreach to other legal practitioners to co-counsel cases, and developed a comprehensive omnibus legislative proposal to consolidate the best practices of all the federal laws involving corporate whistleblower rights into one proposed reform.

Friends of Judge Brown and champions of his work are calling this reform package the E. Cooper Brown Memorial Corporate Whistleblower Enhancement Act. Not only would this reform provide a fitting memorial for a brilliant life devoted to worker rights, but it would also provide uniformity to the patchwork of laws that are currently baffling, illogical, and unfair to workers who need protection. The reform would provide clarity for advocates  and government investigators. It would also help decision-makers at the DOL sort through the patchwork of 22 federal statutes and apply the appropriate rights while also determining if certain rights are present.

Louis Clark, CEO & Executive Director of the Government Accountability Project, stated,

“To have known Judge Brown for over thirty years is one of my life’s most meaningful blessings. I first met him when he was a fierce advocate on behalf of the Micronesian people, whose territory provided the testing grounds for atomic and hydrogen bombs, and, as a result, had endured without adequate compensation horrific illnesses associated with radioactive fallout. Among the hundreds of thousands of workers who benefited from Judge Brown’s advocacy and decision-making as a judge, he also represented atomic workers in their decades-long struggle for compensation for their illnesses related to uranium mining, processing, nuclear fuel manufacturing, and bomb-building. But beyond his towering achievements, I also will long remember and cherish his friendship, professional camaraderie, and clever way of reminding us all that although we are responsible for challenging the unfair status quo, we can also have fun and celebrate each others’ achievements. In other words, doing good should be joyful. I speak for everyone here at Government Accountability Project in saying that we have lost a dear friend and whistleblowers have lost a zealous, talented, and brilliant champion.”  

Government Accountability Project Legal Director Tom Devine added,

“The whistleblower rights community has lost one of our under-the-radar icons. Thanks to Cooper’s leadership, his two terms at the ARB were the golden era for the corporate free speech movement. His professional life there illustrated the stakes and struggle to turn free speech rights on paper into reality after laws are passed. Thanks to Cooper, the Sarbanes Oxley whistleblower rights extend to those challenging corruption by U.S. companies in international contexts. At the ARB he also successfully challenged efforts to roll back pro-whistleblower legal burdens of proof by some 30 years into rules rigged against whistleblowers. That battle was painful, as he endured numerous retaliatory actions. But he endured, and he won, which means all corporate whistleblowers won. As his last professional act at Government Accountability Project, he drafted a Whistleblower Consolidation Act that would standardize best practices throughout the widely diverse corporate whistleblower rights enacted over the last four decades. At Government Accountability Project, we will continue that work to transform dinosaur rights into genuine freedom of speech. When Cooper passed, the whistleblower movement lost one of the great ones.”