The Siscriscom Network broadcasts TV programs internationally through its affiliated TV stations, cable and satellite networks, as well as through syndications. A featured prime time program is La Verdad Internacional, a weekly syndicated international affairs show that is broadcast throughout South America, many cities in the U.S. and now Africa. Their mission is to educate their viewers on the most important issues regarding the need for truth, integrity and ethical behavior, both personal as well as in business, and they are currently televising an interview series on Whistleblowers and Justice.
The interviews were originally aired in Spanish on their stations and network, as well as Bronxnet, a cable program throughout the Bronx, New York. The interviews will also be aired in English. Louis Clark, CEO of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), one of the oldest and foremost whistleblower advocates in the world, and I were both interviewed on our views about whistleblowing.
In an era where whistleblowers are considered pariahs and are often persecuted by both business and increasingly by government it was an honor to be a part of both these segments.
In the segment with Louis, which focuses on the process of whistleblowing and how GAP works to assist whistleblowers, Carlos “Pocho” Salcedo, Correspondent and Field Producer for Siscriscom, had this to say, “The importance of whistleblowers and their protection is evident that this is an essential element to the adequate functioning of democracy and an indispensable tool to fight corruption and misuse of power.
“Whether this in the private or public sector, the stance of society and the legal system should be of protection to the whistleblower. In the vast majority of cases whistleblowers are men and women who put themselves at significant risk to improve life in their societies.”
Louis talked about some of the whistleblower cases they work on, from the World Bank to the incredible cases of abuse going on at our US Mexico borders, and how staff gives them information to try to alleviate these abuses.
He talked about what whistleblowers need to think about before blowing the whistle. He advised: Tell your family and friends what you intend to do and why.
He warned, some should not take this step because just getting through this process in a healthy way is incredibly stressful, you are treated as a pariah. Whistleblowers may not know whom they can trust, some people who might appear to be their friends at work will shun them to protect themselves.
And he said to take heart, former friends and colleagues, under oath, will not lie to protect their bosses.
Carlos asked me – How important was having support legally?
I responded with the necessity of seeking legal counsel first before even saying anything. I’d been whistleblowing for 18 months before I got legal counsel. I mentioned how indebted I was to GAP for their support and counsel. I learned not all are on your side.
GAP and Louis in particular are incredible people with no hidden agenda. They instilled in me the confidence to move forward. I knew they had my back and I knew I could survive.
The full segment in which I appeared focused on the Citigroup story and what I did to contribute to justice through whistleblowing. We talked about the $350 billion Citigroup bailout by the government and the $24 trillion cost to our country and how this has impacted the economy worldwide.
With my 35 years of banking experience, with continued warnings to Citigroup that 60%, rising to 80%, of their mortgages that they were selling to other organizations were defective, while guaranteeing these were of good quality even though they did not meet approved guidelines, is still a conundrum. I had no choice but to blow the whistle. I brought my case to the SEC of the Citi fraud three months before the bank bailouts, and the SEC buried and locked up my testimony. And the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission did basically the same when I provided later testimony to them. (Entrevista en español)
Yet as Carlos and I discussed, whistleblowing has a price, loss of job, income and health, and in many cases, you become branded as a snitch, you’re an outcast. We (whistleblowers) learn our lesson, there is no accountability, and the banks learned that there is no downside, that the government will pick up the tab and if there is a profit it goes into the bank’s pockets.
Pocho asked me, what do you wish you knew then that you learned at the end of this journey?
My response was … get good legal help. I finally found GAP after many mistakes. Go to the outside sooner, seek advice, and understand that if you do blow the whistle you are probably going to blow up your career.
Pocho said, “All of us have benefited in some way by men and women who dared to blow the whistle on wrongdoing, violations of the law on health, the economy, security and the essential rights of citizens. These whistleblowers of all ages and backgrounds put at risk their employment, their safety, and are subject in many cases to legal action and pressure from employees and governments. The attacks can begin immediately, and complaints of the company against the whistleblowers are typically made public and last for years.”
It has never been more dangerous to be a whistleblower, if you see something say something, do the right thing, However, there is a price to pay.