By John Sellers
and Martin Kirk
Oct 20, 2015
Bank employees are the new whistleblowers - the next sheriffs of Wall Street. That’s the message of a new campaign, Whistleblow Wall Street, launched on the heels of the seventh anniversary of TARP, the bank bailout that occurred during the 2008 financial collapse.
A broad alliance of workers, advocates, and lawyers have come together under the banner of Whistleblow Wall Street (#WBWS) to make it easier to expose wrongdoing in the banking industry. Their website uses an encrypted process for disclosing statements and documents anonymously, helping bank employees learn about their rights as whistleblowers, and find legal representation. It is the first online resource of its kind specifically to allow bank workers to blow the whistle on corruption while giving them protection and security.
As part of the campaign’s launch, billboards have gone up throughout the financial district that tell workers,“See something, do something,” encouraging them to visit WhistleBlowWallStreet.com to raise awareness of corrupt practices in the banking industry and take action to stop them. The billboards will be visible until the end of October.
To draw attention to the Whistleblow Wall Street campaign, union members and allies of the Committee for Better Banks are also handing out leaflets at financial centers in multiple cities throughout the United States, including New York City, Washington D.C., St. Louis, and Orlando.
"It is too easy for employees to witness bank behavior, which is harmful to customers or others, and not say anything, due to fear or a misplaced sense of company loyalty. Please, say something! Show personal integrity and report behavior that may be harming others," said Richard Bowen, former CitiBank executive and whistleblower.
John Sellers, co- founder of The Other 98%, one of the key groups behind #WBWS said:
We’ve bailed out the big banks, transferred the losses and risks to ordinary taxpayers, and seen record profits for the bank executives while corruption remains unabated. Whistleblow Wall Street is urgently needed because too many workers in the global banking sector have no outlet for sounding the alarm about what is wrong and what still needs to be fixed. If the U.S. government and other governments are serious about protecting whistleblowers, they will welcome this campaign.
“We want bank workers to know that they can do something if they observe wrongdoing or are ordered to violate the law or engage in unethical practices. Whistleblow Wall Street is one of the ways for bank employees to sound the alarm about corruption in a safe and secure way without fear of losing their jobs,” said Louis Clark, President of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a not-for-profit legal organization specializing in whistleblowing cases that will provide legal support for bank employees who do not know their rights to speak up about wrongdoing.
“It’s crucial that people who work for banks have an outlet for whistleblowing. That is what Whistleblow Wall Street provides. This campaign will help unearth some of the dirtiest secrets of the banking industry—whether it’s call center employees of banks barred from using the bathroom, or bank tellers forced to sell predatory products because of unreasonable sales goal. The list of offenses is long and everything should come to light,” said Stephen Lerner, a fellow at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, who has focused on organizing bank workers since the 2008 financial collapse.
Martin Kirk, a director of The Rules, a global think-tank focused on economic inequality said:
This is not about a few corrupt individuals in the financial sector. The laws that govern Wall Street are hardwired to maximize profits, mistreat workers, and shift all costs to tax payers. Wall Street is the canary in the coalmine for unregulated growth-at-all-costs. More whistle blowing from bank workers can help reset the global economy and prevent predatory behavior.
It’s been seven years since corrupt banking practices and lax regulation of Wall Street destroyed trillions in public assets. While some banks and financial institutions are no longer too big to fail or jail, the global economy is still organized against the needs and interests of ordinary people. Whistleblow Wall Street is designed to play a role in shifting the balance of power from the bottom up, enabling bank workers and others to write fairer economic rules for the future.