Val Broeksmit, the son of a former Deutsche Bank executive, has been missing since April 6, according to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Over the past few years, Broeksmit shared his late father’s internal bank documents with federal authorities and the media as part of investigations into money laundering allegations against the German bank.
The investigation into Broeksmit’s disappearance is still ongoing, and the LAPD has not confirmed if foul play is involved. Regardless, this tragic situation highlights the potential dangers of blowing the whistle on large-scale corporate misconduct and corruption, and it showcases the need for strong whistleblower protections for those individuals brave enough to come forward with disclosures.
Val Broeksmit’s stepfather Bill Broeksmit was a senior executive at Deutsche Bank who committed suicide in 2014. Subsequently, Val Broeksmit obtained many of his late stepfather’s emails and documents from his work at Deutsche Bank. In the following years, Broeksmit was contacted by federal authorities and the media for information about misconduct at Deutsche.
According to Forensic News, “[i]n 2019, Broeksmit was subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee for his documents relating to Russia and also began cooperating with the FBI that year into their money-laundering probe into Deutsche Bank.” Broeksmit was additionally a source for stories by David Enrich, a financial journalist for The New York Times, as well as for stories by Forensic News. Using documents provided by Broeksmit, Forensic News posted a number of stories about Deutsche Bank’s dealings with Russian and Ukrainian clients.
The FBI’s investigation of Deutsche Bank “began with an inquiry into the bank’s work for Russian money launderers and had expanded to cover a broader array of potential misconduct at the bank and at other financial institutions,” according to The New York Times.
According to the LAPD, Broeksmit was last seen on April 6, 2021 around 4 p.m., at Griffith Park on Riverside Drive in Los Angeles. Broeksmit was reportedly dropping off his girlfriend, Marie Peter-Toltz, and her son at the park but did not return later as planned. The next morning, Peter-Toltz used the “find my iPhone” feature on Broeksmit’s cell phone and found his car running with the keys in the ignition in South Central Los Angeles.
Detective M. Beall of the LAPD’s Missing Persons Unit told Beverly Press that according to friends and family, Broeksmit has never previously disappeared or unexpectantly broken contact, there had been no dispute between him and Peter-Toltz, and there were no signs that he intended self-harm. “Anything is possible,” Beall said. “[Peter-Toltz] said there wasn’t any dispute or anything. We don’t know what happened or where he is.”
While it is unclear if Broeksmit’s disappearance is tied to his whistleblowing, the case is a somber reminder of the extreme dangers associated with corporate whistleblowing. While the dangers of whistleblowing are often discussed in terms of lost jobs or career opportunities, physical harm to a whistleblower and their family is possible, particularly in cases of money-laundering and foreign corruption.
Given the dangers of whistleblowing, strong confidentiality protections are essential to any corporate whistleblowing program. Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) offers confidentiality protections to whistleblowers who disclose misconduct to the agency. Whistleblowers are even able to file tips anonymously if they hire an attorney. Overall, unlike the media, the SEC is mandated by Congress to protect and reward whistleblowers.
According to the LAPD, “If you have seen, or have any information regarding [Broeksmit’s] whereabouts please contact the Los Angeles Police Department, Missing Persons Unit, at (213) 996-1800. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477). Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone. All text messages should begin with the letters ‘LAPD.’ Tipsters may also go to LAPDOnline.org, click on ‘webtips’ and follow the prompts.”