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The Justice Department is investigating banking giant Barclays and the United States Postal Service (USPS) over an alleged attempt to expose a whistleblower. Barclays Chief Executive Office, Jes Staley, reached out to postal inspectors after its board received two letters from an anonymous employee complaining about the hiring of a mid-level executive. The Justice Department investigators are currently trying to determine whether officials at Barclays or USPS inspectors may have violated civil Dodd-Frank whistleblower protections. While the civil protections of Dodd-Frank are clear, there are questions surrounding the severity of the repercussions.
Partner and Whistleblower Chair Jordan A. Thomas explained to The Wall Street Journal how attempting to unmask a whistleblower can negatively impact an organization. “It is very seductive for people within organizations to want to find out and hunt down whistleblowers, but inevitably it ends badly for the organization,” Thomas said. “The best practice of responsible companies is not to hunt the whistleblower but to investigate the underlying allegations,” he added. When organizations or top executives hunt down whistleblowers they are undermining the culture of integrity within the organization “because people will question whether in fact the company means it when it says you can report anonymously,” he said.
Thomas described to the Financial Times why Jes Staley’s decision to investigate the anonymous letter sends the wrong message. “Healthy organizations encourage their employees to speak up and they focus on the misconduct report, not the person who reported it,” Thomas said. He added, “If your people don’t trust you, they won’t talk to you.”
Thomas also spoke to the New York Post and shed light on the possibility of government officials facing criminal charges if they are caught assisting the bank in discovering the whistleblower. “Under what circumstances do government agencies work for corporations?” Thomas asked.