fb-pixel Skip to main content

Harsh response to whistle-blowers took root under Obama

While retired federal judge Nancy Gertner made some excellent points in her op-ed regarding the admittedly invaluable contributions of whistle-blowers (“Leaker or whistle-blower?” Aug. 10), she seems to suggest — inaccurately — that the current administration is solely responsible for stifling whistle-blowers. Gertner overlooks that the ironic imbalance between whistle-blower protection in the private vs. public sector actually began in earnest during the Obama administration.

There is no question that in corporate America, whistle-blower protection has skyrocketed during the last 10 years, fueled by new laws such as Dodd-Frank, enhanced and stepped-up regulatory initiatives at the Department of Labor and the Securities and Exchange Commission, and court rulings expanding rights and remedies for whistle-blowers. Companies have responded, as evidenced by a recent survey by leading compliance solutions provider NAVEX Global that shows that average closure times for whistle-blower cases dropped nearly 10 percent from 2015 to 2016.


By contrast, those who blow the whistle in the public sector are branded as leakers (Edward Snowden) or, worse, thrown in jail (Chelsea Manning, Reality Winner). Indeed, during the Obama administration, the government criminally prosecuted nine people on charges related to whistle-blowing or leaks, compared with three such prosecutions in all the prior administrations combined.

While the current president may indeed be obsessed with leaks and intent on stifling would-be whistleblowers, the reality is that the seeds of such stifling took root before he took office.

Gregory Keating

The writer is an attorney and is co-author of “Whistleblowing & Retaliation.”