Marcel Reid and Michael McCray, two whistleblowers who worked at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), have been awarded the Cliff Robertson Sentinel Award at the 32nd Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference. They also gave keynote speeches during the conference. The conference is hosted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), which according to its website is “the world’s largest anti-fraud organization.”
Reid and McCray are part of ACORN8, a group of whistleblowers who worked at ACORN and investigated embezzlement at the organization, allegedly conducted by ACORN founder Wade Rathke’s brother Dale Rathke. The ACORN 8, or A8, later blew the whistle on corruption at ACORN and have since worked as a watchdog organization. ACORN 8 also hosts the annual Whistleblower Summit and Film Festival: the Summit features whistleblower panels and events, while the Film Festival asks for film submissions that center whistleblowers, the First Amendment, and civil or human rights. This year, the Film Festival will be held virtually from July 21 to August 1 — tickets can be purchased here.
Reid and McCray received the Cliff Robertson Sentinel Award at the conference “on behalf of ACORN 8,” according to a statement released on their behalf. The Cliff Robertson Sentinel Award “For Choosing Truth Over Self” was first awarded to Robertson, an Oscar-winning actor, in 2003 during the 14th year of the ACFE conference. In 1977, Robertson blew the whistle on David Begelman, the president of Columbia Pictures at the time, “after he discovered that Mr. Begelman had forged his name to a $10,000 studio check. Mr. Begelman was subsequently accused of embezzling more than $61,000 from the studio,” a New York Times article states. Robertson passed away in 2011 at the age of 88. Other notable winners of this award are Howard Wilkinson (2020), William Sanjour (2007) and Bunnatine Greenhouse (2006).
“Without the A8 whistleblowers creed: Truth, Transparency & Accountability democracy cannot survive and justice is unattainable. I am deeply honored to receive the Cliff Robertson Sentinel Award because it perfectly describes what the A8 did—we told the truth,” Reid stated on the award win. “I am proud to be associated with his memory.” Reid will be speaking at this year’s National Whistleblower Day, which will be held virtually on July 30 and celebrate whistleblowers all around the world. RSVP for the event here.
“After the fall of ACORN, Wade Rathke dismissively asked ‘how are the A8 going to stay relevant?’” McCray said. “I want to thank the ACFE for this award because it answers Rathke’s question – the truth will always be relevant. A8 is a group of the best community organizers in the association. Consequently, we organized the most unlikely community of all—whistleblowers.”