Cases, Courage and Compensation: Whistleblower News Wrap-Up

Many important stories have filled the international headlines in recent weeks. Here are some of the most notable items on whistleblowing and anti-corruption.

Major Cases

Nurse Linda Fairhall was awarded £462,000 (US $564,000) in compensation following her successful whistleblower retaliation case before a UK Employment Tribunal. Fairhall, a nursing team leader who had worked for the National Health Service (NHS) for 38 years, was suspended in 2016 and dismissed in 2018 after warning managers that understaffing was endangering patients. The death of one patient could have been prevented, she said.

“This important judgement should serve as a warning to leaders that treating people badly for speaking up is not acceptable,” NHS national guardian Jayne Chidgey-Clark said of the May 31 ruling. Though it had appealed an earlier ruling in Fairhall’s favor, an NHS spokesperson said the healthcare provider “remains committed to supporting staff and patients in raising concerns related to practice and care.”

Wafiy Abd Aziz, perhaps the first person ever to be criminally charged with whistleblower retaliation, has been acquitted by a court in Malaysia. A judge ruled on May 20 that prosecutors failed to prove a prima facie case against Aziz, who was charged with participating in the firing of an employee at Education Malaysia Global Services. The employee had reported alleged financial misconduct at the company to Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission. Aziz had faced up to 15 years in prison and a fine of RM100,000 (US $24,000).

Courageous Acts

Following a long campaign, attorneys in Lebanon have gathered enough resources to file lawsuits on behalf of victims of the Port of Beirut explosion in August 2020. Attorneys Marie Ghantous and Rami Ichraqieh announced on May 19 they had filed complaints for damages before the Lebanese State Council.

One of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, the blast reportedly killed at least 218 people, injured more than 7,000, and caused $15 billion in property damage. “Lebanon has never witnessed such a huge disaster and the stigmata will remain for a long time to come – be they on human, social, economic and psychological levels,” the attorneys said in a statement.

As an indication of the growing concern about the safety of mobile devices, Dr. Marc Arazi has released his groundbreaking book in English – PHONEGATE: Overexposed and Deceived; What the Cell Phone Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know. “The companies that manufacture our precious smartphones have knowingly exposed us to radio-wave radiation well beyond safety standards,” writes Arazi. “To make matters worse, some of them have even embedded software that rigs test results – just like [Volkswagen] Dieselgate.”

Using official data from the French government, Arazi discovered in 2016 that 90 percent of cell phone models exceeded regulatory exposure limits. In 2019 tests commissioned by the Chicago Tribune found that radiation emitted by Apple’s iPhone 7 exceeded FCC limits, and was more than double what Apple had reported from its own testing.

Whistleblower Rewards

Kenya has joined the growing number of countries with reward programs for witnesses whose disclosures lead to enforcement actions. The Capital Markets Authority, which regulates Kenya’s stock exchange and financial services sector, announced in June it will pay whistleblowers 3 percent of penalties and illicit gains recovered from guilty parties.

Rewards are capped at 5 million schillings ($42,000), roughly equal to three years of the average salary in Kenya. According to international best practices rewards should not be capped, in order to maximize the impact and effectiveness of these programs. There are now at least 16 countries that have instituted or announced monetary rewards for whistleblowers, according to the Center for Whistleblower Rights & Rewards.

Whistleblower Support

Luxembourg, which criminally prosecuted “LuxLeaks” whistleblowers Antoine Deltour and Raphaël Halet for revealing the country’s tax-evasion policies, has proposed a new whistleblower protection office. The idea was announced earlier this year as part of Luxembourg’s efforts to comply with new EU rules. According to draft legislation, the new office would assist people considering reporting crime and corruption, and help companies comply with new whistleblower rules.

Several other European countries have established whistleblower offices, including Ireland, The Netherlands and Slovakia. Many other countries are considering the move.

Saudi Arabia continues to roll out new and expanded whistleblower programs with the goal to combat corruption. The Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority, which investigates financial and administrative corruption, has set up an online- and telephone-based system for citizens to report violations. “No whistleblower will be harmed because of his report,” the agency said. In August 2021 the agency said it had arrested 282 people and begun enforcement actions against 748 others. These include employees of various ministries accused of bribery, forgery and abuse of power.

The Saudi Monetary Authority has released a whistleblower policy that instructs financial institutions to encourage employees and stakeholders to report misconduct, provide confidential reporting channels, protect employees from retaliation and protect their identity.

Racked by corruption and culture-shifting whistleblower cases, South Africa has a new resource for citizen witness, The Whistleblower House. Founded earlier this year, the non-profit group said it will support whistleblowers, enhance awareness of whistleblower rights, and promote their role in strengthening ethics and democracy. Among its services are legal, financial, psychological and security support. Founders and staff include many prominent former whistleblowers, including Martha Ngoye of the Passenger Rail Agency, Ivan Pillay of the South African Revenue Service, and Cynthia Stimpel of South African Airways.

In South Africa’s most noteworthy case, whistleblowers brought down President Jacob Zuma in 2018 after they revealed a massive and multi-layered state capture scandal involving the Gupta family of India. Two Gupta brothers, Atul and Rajesh, were arrested in Dubai earlier this month on graft, fraud and money laundering charges.

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