It appears that at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the very people who are the watchdogs of whistleblowing, have been blowing the whistle on the whistleblowing czar, I.G. Carl Hoecker himself and his staff, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.
Two and perhaps more employees at the agency have filed complaints to a different federal whistleblower-protection agency, alleging that he and his senior staff retaliated against them for calling out misconduct within the Inspector General’s very own office. Raphael Kozolchyk, one of the spokesmen for the agency said “a number of the claims contain significant factual inaccuracies, while others are grossly misleading.” He added that the office does “not comment on ongoing personnel matters.” Mr. Hoecker himself did not comment.
The issue at hand is about potential time and attendance fraud. It appears that a supervisor in the IG office and a junior subordinate disappear during working hours and also engage in inappropriate conduct in the office. While the role of Inspector General is to encourage whistleblowing, the “whistleblowers allege their complaint was not treated fairly as the investigation was not impartial and they also suffered retaliations.”
If true, these are serious charges. It appears that Carl Hoecker, SEC Inspector General since 2013, had appointed one of those very employees under investigation to “help coordinate a review of procedures in the Inspector General’s office.” According to the WSJ article, the target of the complaint “removed language designed to prevent conflicts of interest affecting internal investigations, such as allegedly happened in this case.” Well yes, a conflict of interest perhaps?
A bit odd. Is it possible that the “close relationship between the investigating superiors and the employees under investigation is why the investigators found “insufficient evidence to conclude the two employees had an inappropriate relationship?”
Could very well be. However, the SEC Office of Inspector General referred the complaints to a federal prosecutor, who declined to pursue the case. It looks as if there was insufficient evidence to establish an illegal inappropriate relationship.
By the way, while there is as yet insufficient evidence that the “whistleblowers were retaliated against” in spite of their claim that the “investigation wasn’t sufficiently independent to be fair,” superiors retaliating or even threatening to retaliate against would-be whistleblowers could impede investigations the SEC is supposed to conduct and is against the rules the IG office is supposed to uphold.
I’d like to offer a thought — knowing I may be lambasted. So be it. According to the definition of whistleblower: A whistleblower is a person, who could be an employee of a company or a government agency, disclosing information to the public or some higher authority about any wrongdoing, which could be in the form of fraud, corruption, etc.
An employee who alleges wrongdoing by his or her employer of the sort that violates public law or tends to injure a considerable number of people. As a whistleblower myself who followed defined internal corporate and government procedures in exposing wrongdoing at Citigroup, I respect the process.
So is the SEC issue a real whistleblower case? It alleges time fraud. OK, that could be. However, there is not referenced any real evidence of retaliation. And was it time ”fraud?” Deliberate time fraud? Two employees deliberately defrauding the agency? Or two employees “sneaking off while on the clock?” And were they exempt or nonexempt employees?
Is this a whistleblower issue — or a human resource issue? I think more questions need to be asked and answered before we go down the road of using whistleblowing as a catchall for what we don’t like in our organizations. And involving the press in a Salem witch hunt.
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