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National Whistleblower Center: Attorney General Nominee Strongly Opposed to Whistleblowers

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National Whistleblower Center

 

Attorney General Nominee Strongly Opposed to Whistleblowers

William Barr called False Claims Act an “abomination”

December 11, 2018. Washington, DC.  In a public transcript given as part of the Presidential Oral History of the George H.W. Bush Presidency, President Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, William Barr, ferociously attacked America’s most successful whistleblower law, the False Claims Act.  Barr stated, on the record, that he “wanted to attack” the False Claims Act, and specifically called the law’s highly successful qui tam whistleblower provision “an abomination.” In a transcript of his April 5, 2001 interview with the Bush presidency’s oral history project, the content of which Barr personally approved, Barr stated:

Yes, there were significant disagreements sometimes between the SG’s [Solicitor General] office and my office on a position. One of the big ones was the qui tam statute, which is basically a bounty hunter statute that lets private citizens sue in the name of the United States and get a bounty. I felt then, and feel now, that is an abomination and a violation of the appointments clause under the due powers of the President as well as the standing issue of the Supreme Court. So I wanted to attack the qui tam statute, and the SG’s office wanted to defend it. That was a big dispute.”

Upon learning this information, Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, released the following statement:

“Mr. Barr’s comments demonstrate a deep rooted contempt for whistleblowers.  His radical anti-whistleblower statements are disqualifying for any nominee for the position of U.S. Attorney General. More

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Environmental Activist Sued for Libel Over Facebook Comment About Oil and Gas Company

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SOURCE: desmogblog

By Simon Davis-Cohen

On November 17, 2016, a Colorado environmental activist named Pete Kolbenschlag used Facebook to leave a comment on a local newspaper article, the kind of thing more than a billion people do every day.

However, most people don’t get sued for libel over their Facebook comments. (Although some do.)

The Post Independent story that Kolbenschlag commented on was about oil and gas extraction on federal lands near his home, in western Colorado’s North Fork Valley. It announced that the Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management was canceling all oil and gas leases on the iconic Thompson Divide, a large, rugged swath of Forest Service land.

In retaliation, the article reported, a Texas-based oil and gas company called SG Interests (SGI), which owned 18 leases in the Thompson Divide area, was planning legal action against the federal government. The decision to cancel Thompson Divide leases was one of Obama’s last while in office.

SGI claimed it had obtained documents that “clearly show” that the decision to cancel the leases “was a predetermined political decision from the Obama administration taking orders from environmental groups.”

Kolbenschlag, who has opposed drilling in the region and engaged in environmental advocacy for some 20 years, responded to SGI’s allegations by posting the following comment:

While SGI alleges “collusion” let us recall that it, SGI, was actually fined for colluding (with GEC) to rig bid prices and rip off American taxpayers. Yes, these two companies owned by billionaires thought it appropriate to pad their portfolios at the expense of you and I and every other hard-working American.”

Shortly thereafter, SGI sued Kolbenschlag for libel (which generally refers to defamatory written statements).

SGI Investigation and Settlement

Kolbenschlag’s comment was in reference to a settlement SGI and Gunnison Energy Company (GEC), another oil and gas firm active on federal lands in the region, signed with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012.

According to court documents filed by SGI, the settlement followed a two-year investigation into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two oil and gas companies in which “SGI would bid on certain federal oil and gas leases … and … SGI would assign GEC a 50 percent interest in any leases for which it was the successful bidder.” In other words, rather than compete in the bidding process, SGI would do the bidding, and then give GEC half of the mineral rights.

According to these court documents, the Justice Department’s two-year investigation led it to determine “that SGI’s and GEC’s agreement to bid jointly pursuant to the MOU constituted a per se violation of Section 1 of the Sherman [Antitrust] Act.”

The original settlement “required” the companies to pay $550,000 for “antitrust and False Claims Act violations.” It was the first time the federal government challenged an “anticompetitive bidding agreement for mineral rights leases.” That settlement, however, was later rejected by a federal judge, who approved a new settlement of $1 million and did not require the companies to admit to wrongdoing.

Libel or Retaliation?

SGI argues that Kolbenschlag’s statement that the company was fined for colluding with GEC is libelous because it is “contrary to the true facts, and reasonable persons … reading … the statement would be likely to think significantly less favorably about [SGI] than they would if they knew the true facts.”

The company argues that it was never convicted of or admitted to wrongdoing, and the settlement agreement did not require it. SGI further argues that it was not “fined,” but rather agreed to pay the government money to settle the case.

Moreover, SGI claims that “agreements such as the ones entered into between SGI and GEC are common place in the oil and gas industry.” And therefore, presumably, there’s nothing wrong with what they did.

Kolbenschlag’s attorney not only argues that his client’s comment was “substantially true” in the eyes of ordinary readers, but also that SGI’s lawsuit against him is in retaliation against his environmental activism. In legal briefs, his attorney writes that “this lawsuit is SGI’s transparent and blatant effort to punish Mr. Kolbenschlag for his public speech and advocacy that are not to SGI’s liking.”

For example, Kolbenschlag was part of a group called Citizens for a Healthy Community that focused on BLM rulemaking related to hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on federal lands. “SGI is misusing the judicial system as the means to silence its critics,” claimed Kolbenschlag’s attorney.

READ the rest of this article HERE.

Ask Congress to Save America’s Most Important Whistleblower Law

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Demand that the House Judiciary Committee cancel the hearing on False Claims Act “reform” scheduled for July 30, 2014. If the Committee is determined to hold the hearing, then a member of the National Whistleblower Center should be invited to testify as a witness.

Urgent Action Needed!!

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (“Chamber”) has declared a war against whistleblowers! It has released a report, “Fixing the False Claims Act: the Case For Compliance-Focused Reforms,” setting forth proposals to strip millions of Americans from coverage under the Act, limit damages, increase the burden of proof on demonstrating fraud and establishing barriers to block employees from contacting the Justice Department. Taken together, the Chamber’s “reforms” would completely undermine the False Claims Act.

With its report in hand, the Chamber has commenced an extensive lobbying effort to amend the FCA. Its first step has apparently succeeded. The Chamber pressured the House Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing to present the Chamber’s proposals.

We need your help to stop the Chamber’s campaign! We need your voice to tell Congress not to destroy America’s most effective whistleblower and anti-fraud law!

The FCA has recovered billions of dollars from some of the largest corporations that have ripped off the taxpayers. Thousands of employees have used its pro-whistleblower procedures, many with success. Congress must hear our voices!

Linked below is a copy of the NWC’s report fully rebutting the Chamber’s dangerous attacks on the FCA. The report explains what is at stake, and how devious the Chamber’s proposals are. Please Take Action and pass the report onto your members of Congress – ask them to read it!

A copy of the NWC’s report is linked here: http://bit.ly/NWC_FCA_Report

Tell Congress to reject the Chamber’s scare tactics, and instead expand the availability of qui tam remedies in order for America’s most effective law for uncovering fraud to be fully used to protect the American taxpayers.”

Link: National Whistleblower Center Report: “Saving America’s ‘Most Important Law for Uncovering Fraud.’” July 30, 2014.

Please join with the NWC and take action on this critical issue.

Please pass this alert onto a friend, co-worker or family member!

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