Events highlight importance of whistleblowing and whistleblower protection

March 01, 2012

A series of events at Seattle University School of Law will focus on understanding the phenomenon of whistleblowing and the role whistleblowers have in promoting accountability in government and business. 

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) brings its American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability, to Seattle University School of Law on March 23. The stop will feature prominent whistleblowers Richard Bowen (Citigroup), Walt Tamosaitis (Hanford Nuclear Site) and John Munsell (contaminated meat/ConAgra/USDA) who will discuss the important issues they disclosed and the personal and professional consequences they experienced as a result of their willingness to report government and corporate misconduct.

The panel presentation will take place at 5:30-7 p.m. in room C-5 of Sullivan Hall. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested.

GAP's American Whistleblower Tour is a new campaign that seeks to educate the public about the vital role whistleblowing has in our democracy as an antidote to institutional corruption, waste, fraud, abuse, and unsafe practices. 

Other whistleblower events include:

  • A Continuing Legal Education program for lawyers, business leaders, and public servants, titled Whistleblowing: Law, Compliance and the Public Interest; Read more.
  • An International Academic Research Network conference on March 23 & 24, 2012, hosted by Seattle University School of Law and Professor Terry Dworkin, and co-sponsored by the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. Read more.

GAP's Tour is a dynamic campaign aimed at educating university students, and the general public, about the phenomenon and practice of whistleblowing. This Tour stop is sponsored by the Seattle University School of Law and the Seattle University Albers School of Business & Economics.

The whistleblowers include:

  • Richard Bowen is a former vice president at Citigroup who tried to warn the Bank's high-level brass about the rise in numbers of defective mortgages. Specifically, he was responsible for evaluating the quality of $90 billion of mortgages that Citigroup was buying annually from Countrywide and other lenders. Late last year, on a special 60 Minutes episode, Mr. Bowen detailed how he began to raise concerns internally in June 2006 upon discovering that some 60% of prime mortgages (making up some $50 billion) were defective. Furthermore, Mr. Bowen witnessed how Citigroup intentionally lowered its standards for accepting subprime mortgage pools. He testified in 2010 before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission about his whistleblowing, and continues to face repercussions from his efforts to blow the whistle. 
  • Walt Tamosaitis: Deputy Chief Process Engineer and Research & Technology Manager for the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Eastern Washington, Dr. Tamosaitis was terminated from the project by contractor Bechtel after raising safety concerns about issues that would impact the overall safety and operation of the plant. Dr. Tamosaitis's case against Bechtel is embroiled in federal lawsuits.
  • John Munsell: Munsell owned a small meat processing company when he reported that a giant packing company (ConAgra) was the source of E. coli-tainted meat at his plant. The USDA, however, refused to investigate his claims and shut down his plant instead. Munsell continued to spread the word about the tainted beef. His disclosures, along with deaths from the tainted beef, spurred the recall of 19 million pounds of beef by ConAgra, one of the largest recalls in history.

The presentation will be moderated by Dana Gold, a GAP Senior Fellow at GAP and the Director of the American Whistleblower Tour. Gold is a '95 graduate of Seattle University School of Law and was the co-founder and Director of its Center for Corporations, Law & Society from 2003-2008.

"Whistleblowing addresses fundamental issues of ethics and the value of all employees functioning as whole persons in the workplace to promote not only compliance and accountability, but also a just and humane world," stated Gold. "I am eager to return to Seattle University to discuss these timely issues."

"Highlighting the importance of protecting whistleblowers who stand up against wrongdoing fits perfectly with our mission to educate outstanding lawyers who are committed to social justice," said Seattle University School of Law Dean Mark C. Niles, who also serves on GAP's Board of Directors. "GAP is doing important work, and the law school is pleased be a partner in bringing the tour to the law school."

This Seattle University stop is the latest of numerous Tour stops this academic year. Stops thus far have included the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Brandeis, Texas at Austin, Auburn, Florida International, Rutgers-Newark, Syracuse, and Tulane.

Goals of the Tour include raising awareness about the vital role whistleblowing has in our democracy, preparing America's youth for ethical decision-making, countering negative connotations associated with whistleblowing, connecting prospective whistleblowers to available resources, and encouraging academic studies of whistleblowing.

Founded in 1977 and located in Washington, D.C., the Government Accountability Project is a public interest legal organization and the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy group. GAP's mission is to promote corporate and government accountability by protecting whistleblowers, advancing occupational free speech, and empowering citizen activists. Read more about GAP and the tour.