On July 28, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) gave the keynote address at the first day of the National Whistleblower Center’s annual National Whistleblower Day celebration. Grassley focused his address on a number of whistleblower reform bills he is pushing for.
“Last year I began my remarks with a look back at the progress we have made for whistleblower rights and protections over the past few decades,” Grassley began. “This year I would like to focus on what we are working to achieve going forward.”
The first piece of legislation Grassley touched upon was his bill offering reforms to the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (AML Act.) The AML Act established a whistleblower award program for money launderer whistleblowers; however, since its passage whistleblower advocates have been calling for reforms in order to ensure the program can be successful.
“While an important step forward, the current program has issues,” Grassley said. “First, there’s no minimum award amount. So, the government isn’t obligated to pay whistleblowers anything at all, even if the information the whistleblower provides leads to a successful enforcement. Second, the program doesn’t provide the Treasury Department with a mechanism to pay whistleblowers and instead relies on yearly Congressional appropriations.”
“My bill addresses all of these issues,” Grassley continued. The bill raises the cap on whistleblower awards from 25% to 30% of the funds recovered by the government and institutes a mandatory award minimum of 10%. The bill also institutes a funding mechanism for the program so it does not have to rely on Congressional appropriations.
Grassley also highlighted that the bill contains whistleblower provisions for individuals blowing the whistle on sanctions violations, such as those instituted in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “I have it on good authority that there are whistleblowers who might have come forward to report money laundering associated with the Russians if only a whistleblower protection and reward system was in place to cover their disclosures,” Grassley said.
Grassley’s reform bill to the AML Act is widely supported by whistleblower advocates. A companion bill introduced in the House of Representatives recently passed through a Committee vote.
Grassley then turned his attention to the need for whistleblower reforms at the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). “This Congress I have been leading an effort to pass another update to the FBI whistleblower program,” Grassely stated. “My bill will allow FBI employees to appeal their whistleblower retaliation cases to the Merit Systems Protection Board. This gives those whistleblowers that outside review by a neutral third party that is so very very important to protect whistleblowers.”
Lastly, Grassley touched upon his Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Whistleblower Program Improvement Act of 2021 which offers seven reforms to the IRS Whistleblower Program. “I wrote the law improving the IRS Whistleblower Program and establishing the IRS Whistleblower Office back in the year 2006,” Grassley explained. “Since that time, the program has been a great success resulting in more than $6 billion saved for the taxpayers.”
The reforms offered by the IRS Whistleblower Program Improvement Act include providing for de novo review of whistleblower decisions in Tax Court and removing sequestration of whistleblower awards. The bill is widely supported by whistleblower advocates.
Grassley concluded his speech by stating “as the Congress comes to a close, let’s continue to work together as we build on past successes and further strengthen the country’s whistleblower protection laws.”
On July 27, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Grassley to recognize July 30, 2022, as National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. Grassley introduced the resolution alongside Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).
The National Whistleblower Center’s virtual National Whistleblower Day event continues on July 29 and 30.