On April 20, whistleblower experts gathered virtually at a Whistleblower Network News-sponsored conference to discuss the implementation of the 2021 European Union (EU) deadline for an overhaul of whistleblower protections in Romania. U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was a keynote speaker at the event, where he highlighted the importance of adopting whistleblower protections when creating whistleblower legislation. Grassley’s support for the conference may go a long way towards raising awareness for Romania’s whistleblower law overhaul, and could help encourage Romania and other EU member states to use the extremely successful U.S. Dodd-Frank and False Claims Act whistleblower laws as a template.
The 18th edition of the Tax, Law & Lobby Conference focused on the importance of whistleblower protections and reward systems, and hosted discussions on ways that the new law can be integrated into Romanian corporate and governmental culture. Romania is one of the first countries to publicly present a bill that meets the conditions of the December 2021 deadline for the EU Directive. The EU directive mandates that all EU member states overhaul their whistleblower systems by December 2021. In addition to proposing legislation which meets the requirements of the EU Directive, Romania is the first EU country to fully incorporate the recommendations for whistleblower protection and rewards submitted by the U.S.-based National Whistleblower Center.
Grassley, colloquially known in the U.S. as the “patron saint of whistleblowers,” delivered an address at the conference in which he congratulated Romania for its focus on whistleblowers and explained the importance of whistleblowing in American law. Grassley mentioned that the first U.S. whistleblower law is actually older than the U.S. Constitution, describing whistleblowing as a highly patriotic act. “We recognize that in an open and free society, whistleblowers are patriots, and serve a very important role by promoting government transparency and accountability,” he said.
Grassley’s support for both the conference and the continued development of whistleblower law shows the importance of Romania’s overhaul of their whistleblower system. In the 1980’s, Grassley spearheaded the charge to overhaul what is now the world’s strongest whistleblower law, the U.S. False Claims Act. Since then, Grassley has been a consistent advocate for whistleblowers worldwide.
The Senator also spoke out in support of robust whistleblower protections and reward systems. “Sadly though, whistleblowers are often mistreated, and their patriotic actions come at great expense to their personal lives and career. That’s why it’s so important to put very strong whistleblower incentives and protections in place,” he said. Whistleblower protections and reward systems are often undervalued or underpowered when countries try to rewrite their whistleblower laws, and Grassley’s vocal support of these systems at the conference sends a powerful message.
Grassley also cautioned Romanian citizens not to become discouraged if their new law doesn’t work perfectly as soon as it is passed. Grassley reminded the conference that although the U.S. now has the most effective battery of whistleblower laws in the world, this achievement didn’t happen overnight: “It has taken us years, and we’re still finding ways to improve whistleblower protections in our country.” Most recently, Grassley announced that he would introduce a bill to close a central loophole in the False Claims Act and stop fraudulent contractors from escaping sanctions through a technicality. Grassley has also been fighting to keep the highly successful CFTC whistleblower program afloat with the reintroduction of the CFTC Fund Management Act.
While the U.S. may have the strongest whistleblower laws in the world, whistleblower advocates are constantly trying to increase protection in the U.S., demonstrating that there is always work to be done to encourage more people to stand up and report fraud and injustice when they see it. The conference is evidence that this spirit is spreading outside the borders of the U.S. as well, promoting stronger whistleblower laws all across the world.