"Today, there are no federal protections for whistleblowers under the Securities and Exchange Act. Congress must act quickly to ensure that employees of Arthur Andersen or Enron who want to blow the whistle are fully protected. Currently, many employees who report gross violations of law can be fired and have no federal remedy. Loopholes in whistleblower legislation must be closed, and a federal safety net must be created in order to protect legitimate whistleblowing."
— Kris Kolesnik, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center
February 14, 2002
The National Whistleblower Center is a nonprofit educational advocacy organization that works for the enforcement of environmental laws, nuclear safety, civil rights, and government and industry accountability through the support and representation of employee whistleblowers. The primary goal of the Center is to ensure that whistleblower disclosures about improper government and industry actions are defended and heard.
The Center was established to protect and advocate on behalf of whistleblowers by a group that included attorneys with expertise in whistleblower laws, respected international human rights advocates, and members of public interest groups. The founders wanted to ensure an effective safe haven to protect individuals who risk their careers to serve the public interest. The Center's first major case involved clients who were both government whistleblowers seeking protection under the First Amendment and nuclear power professionals facing termination and blacklisting. In its first full year of operation, the Center achieved a major policy victory by forcing the Reagan-era Labor Department to ban "hush money" agreements in environmental and nuclear safety areas.
The executive director of the Center, Kris J. Kolesnik, worked for eighteen years in the Senate as its leading champion for government oversight and whistleblower legislation. He was a key player in the passage of major whistleblower legislation, including the 1986 False Claims Amendments Act and the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act, and he continues to work with Congressional committees on enhanced whistleblower legislation for federal workers, FBI agents, and private sector workers in the securities industry.
The Center has developed work in the areas of environmental protection and nuclear safety, forensic sciences, FBI oversight, and financial mismanagement in the Defense Department. It has helped establish some of the most important precedents in the area of government oversight, including a 1997 presidential directive ordering the U.S. Attorney General to implement regulations protecting FBI whistleblowers. The Center has also sponsored landmark legal cases that have increased protections for whistleblowers, and it has participated as a friend of the court in major Supreme Court cases.
The National Whistleblower Center and its sister organization, the National Whistleblower Legal Defense and Education Fund, operate a number of programs to help whistleblowers expose wrongdoing by government and industry officials. The National Whistleblower Legal Defense and Education Fund operates an Attorney Referral Service to provide legal referrals to whistleblowers in search of competent counsel. The organization currently has a network of attorneys in thirty-three states. The Center also provides valuable information to whistleblowers regarding their rights and what they can expect after blowing the whistle. As an advocate, the Center creates proposed legislation and promotes grassroots support of legislation for the protection of whistleblowers.
In response to the collapse of Enron, the Center has proposed legislation to protect whistleblowers in publicly-traded companies. The proposed legislation is modeled on the airline whistleblower law, which was overwhelmingly approved by Congress in 2000. According to Stephen M. Kohn, the Center's board chairman, the law would prohibit a company from discharging or blacklisting employees who reveal violations of the law. The proposed legislation can be viewed on the Center's Web site at: http://www.whistleblowers.org/model.htm.
In addition to describing the Center's mission and activities, the organization's Web site offers detailed information to whistleblowers seeking assistance in several industries. It also provides e-mail addresses and other ways to reach members of Congress for those who wish to voice support in favor of whistleblower legislation. Another feature of the site is the Whistleblower Internet Law Library, which has links to Internet sites that contain information and resources about whistleblower and employment law issues and other legal and legislative matters.
A large portion of the Center's income usually comes from foundations with the rest generated from individual contributors. Tax-deductible donations are accepted by mail.