New York Times: Wall Street’s New Enforcers Aim to Muzzle Whistleblowers

In today’s New York Times, GAP Legal Director Tom Devine coauthored a guest column with Jordan Thomas of noted law firm Labaton Sucharow outlining why the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must strengthen its Whistleblower Program. Today, on the fourth anniversary of Dodd-Frank (the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act), GAP and Labaton announce the submitting of a joint rulemaking petition to the SEC which seeks to change the unscrupulous legal maneuvers employed by many corporations attempting to silence potential whistleblowers. Just some of these maneuvers include wrongfully pressuring employees to sign nondisclosure agreements, preventing employees from consulting independent legal counsel, and demanding waivers of any future whistleblower awards. More on the petition filing can be found in this morning’s press release.

A broad coalition of organizations – including Americans for Financial Reform, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the National Employment Lawyers Association – has also submitted a non-rulemaking petition asking the SEC to immediately take steps to address this serious problem.

Key Quote: As Dodd-Frank has steadily increased the probability of detection, companies have become more sophisticated and aggressive in their efforts to discourage employees from reporting possible violations to the S.E.C. and other authorities. The legal countermeasures being deployed include a variety of employment, severance and settlement agreements that weaken both new and existing whistle-blower programs. 

It was no isolated aberration that KBR, one of the nation’s largest government contractors, required employees seeking to report fraud to sign internal confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from reporting violations to law enforcement authorities. Rather, it reflects a growing trend of companies trying to silence whistle-blowers, at the same time Congress strengthens their rights.

Examples include: failing to educate employees about the S.E.C. whistle-blower program and their rights, unlike other corporate, state and federal programs; preventing employees from consulting legal counsel through the use of nondisclosure agreements, effectively eliminating their ability to file anonymously in accordance with S.E.C. rules; exploiting corporate whistle-blowers’ fear of retaliation and blacklisting by requiring notice of external reporting, in violation of their right under Dodd-Frank and S.E.C. rules to report anonymously; de-incentivizing tips by making employees sign agreements waiving any future monetary awards for blowing the whistle; and intimidating potential whistle-blowers with lawsuits to enforce secrecy agreements, a battle few whistle-blower have the desire and resources to fight.

Related Article: Wall Street Journal

The Guardian: I, Spy – Edward Snowden in Exile

In a follow-up piece from last week, this is the long-form article based on an extended interview with NSA whistleblower and GAP client Edward Snowden. In the seven-hour interview (), the whistleblower urges professionals with a duty to protect confidentiality to upgrade their digital security, discusses his daily life in Russia, and details how NSA analysts routinely share explicit “sexually compromising” photos of surveillance subjects with other agency staff.

FireDogLake: At HOPE X Conference, Protecting and Supporting Dissenters is at Forefront of Many Presentations

This past weekend, GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake spoke at the HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference, centered around supporting dissent. In recent years, some hackers have supported whistleblowers and helped to reveal government fraud, waste, abuse and illegality.

Key Quote: Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, who is one of the lawyers who represents NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, explained her view that hackers and whistleblowers face a war on information. The war targets hackers and journalists, as well as whistleblowers in government that are seeking to expose criminal misconduct and abuses of power. 

She highlighted attempts by Drake to go through all conceivable channels at the agency to blow the whistle. His superiors, including an inspector general, did not help him investigate and hold NSA accountable for unconstitutional surveillance. They turned his name over to the Justice Department for prosecution.

Related Article: Motherboard

Associated Press: 2 Ag Gag Laws Facing Federal Court Challenges

GAP’s Food Integrity Campaign and other food safety, worker rights, animal welfare and transparency rights advocates have been fighting anti-whistleblower Ag Gag bills in various state legislatures the last several years. This article details how the fight has turned national as laws in Utah and Idaho face constitutional challenges in federal court. More on these controversial measures, which aim to silence agriculture whistleblowers, can be found at


Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.