HomeLeading Whistleblower Attorney Featured On Business Integrity Podcast

Leading Whistleblower Attorney Featured On Business Integrity Podcast

Published On: November 17th, 2022Categories: Whistleblower News and Qui Tam Blog

Stephen M. Kohn, leading qui tam attorney at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto LLP and Chairman of the Board at the National Whistleblower Center, recently joined the “Let’s Talk About” podcast to discuss whistleblowing and its role in upholding professional ethics.

The podcast, run out of the Business Integrity Leadership Initiative (BILI) at the University of Arkansas’s Sam M. Walton College of Business, alternates topics each season, with “Let’s Talk About Speaking Up” as the prompt for the latest slew of guests. These have recently included Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins, who exposed improper accounting at the energy company in 2001 paving the way for the Sarbanes-Oxley Act corporate reform law.

Cindy Moehring is Founder & Executive Chair of the BILI and the host of the podcast. Moehring recently retired from Walmart where she spent 20 years in various executive roles, including senior vice president, Global Chief Ethics Officer, and senior vice president, U.S. Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer.

Kohn first outlined how he got his start in whistleblower law, which began with a 1982 clerkship when the field was brand new to him.

“I realized what it was,” Kohn said. “These great people sacrificed and reported issues that were really of public concern. I took a job with the organization I clerked for and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since 1984 when I became a lawyer.”

In 1988, Kohn founded his own firm, Kohn, Kohn, and Colapinto LLP, in Washington D.C. alongside Michael Kohn and David Colapinto. In addition, Kohn helped found a non-profit, the National Whistleblower Center, in order to advocate for whistleblowers, whistleblower causes and legislation that would strengthen qui tam protections.

Kohn has also been credited with the discovery of the story behind the first whistleblower law which he describes in his 2017 book, “The New Whistleblower’s Handbook” and in this episode.

A law, which Kohn described as “as good as any law we have now,” was passed on July 30th, 1778 that called on every inhabitant of the United States to report fraud, misdemeanors, crimes, and corruption by the general public and within the new revolutionary government.

This historical account laid the foundation for the whistleblower laws seen today, including the False Claims Act.

Later in the episode, Kohn talked about the practical application of these laws and protections for whistleblowers that exist today. He also points out how company cover-ups have their costs.

“We can go and look at some of these cases where the whistleblower was right, where they went internally first and tried to work it out, and the company ended up getting sanctioned like $500 million,” Kohn said. “If you listen to the whistleblower, the company could’ve saved $500 million. What director of any company, of all the thousand biggest companies, can sit there and say ‘my participation saved this company $500 million’? Not many. Yet I tell you, there’s a thousand whistleblowers who meet that criteria.”

Kohn and Moehring discussed company culture, and as Moehring put it, the “importance that company culture plays in the minds of the employees in terms of whether they feel psychologically safe to raise an issue.”

Whistleblower reporting is not possible without protections, as many companies choose to silence or retaliate against whistleblowers who come forward, elevating the need for strong laws.

“Being right isn’t enough,” Kohn said. “Doing the right thing isn’t enough. You have to make sure you’re protected.”

In his almost 40 years working for whistleblowers, Kohn reflected on the types of people who blow the whistle.

“I think the fundamental thing that I have learned is that people don’t understand whistleblowers,” Kohn said. “They’re some of the best, most loyal people you will ever meet.”

The podcast episode is available on the Walton College website, as well as YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

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