BLOW THE WHISTLE? Advice for Would-Be Church and Ministry Whistleblowers

 

Stephen Martin Kohn, founder of the National Whistleblower Center, has written a helpful book for church and ministry employees that have witnessed fraud and wish to take their concerns public.

The New Whistleblower’s Handbook goes step-by step from collecting evidence to filing a lawsuit in court.

The book is filled with fascinating insights which can explain why fraud is rampant in Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and even religious organizations.

An Institute of Internal Auditors “survey revealed that 49 percent of auditors were told ‘not to perform audit work in high-risk areas,’ while another 32 percent were ‘directed to work in low-risk areas so an executive could investigate or retaliate against another individual.’” In other words, auditors are told to look the other way in many cases and to help employers look for (miniscule?) dirt on disliked employees.

Is it possible ministry auditors such as Stanfield and O’Dell or Chitwood & Chitwood also fail to properly audit “high risk areas”?  They represent some of the people we investigate for lavish lifestyles.  We have our eyes on you.

One amazing fact in the book is that “tipsters” uncover more fraud than professional auditors and law enforcement combined.

A 2007 “PricewaterhouseCoopers study credited ‘tipsters’ or whistleblowers with uncovering 43 percent of frauds.”

Collecting Evidence

At Trinity Foundation, we have observed multiple cases where courts refused to take a case because evidence was improperly obtained. The New Whistleblower’s Handbook gives practical warnings on how to avoid this pitfall.

“If the whistleblower knows about the existence of supporting evidence, but cannot lawfully obtain that information, the IRS suggests that the whistleblower ‘should describe these documents and identify their location to the best of his or her ability.’”  By doing so, “the IRS can lawfully obtain it through a subpoena or other legal means.”

Know the Law

Federal whistleblower laws were mostly written to address fraud committed by government employees, government contractors and publicly traded companies along with environmental issues and occupational safety concerns.

While churches and ministries are generally not covered by these federal laws, there are states laws that protect private employees. Author Stephen Kohn notes, “Some states are better than their federal counterparts, while others can best be described as pathetic.”

FindLaw has a summary of each state’s whistleblower protections.  As an example, FindLaw reports, “California whistleblower laws protect both public and private employees (not all states do), while instances of retaliation may also be charged as crimes.”

Be Aware of Deadlines

Whistleblowers that procrastinate in filing a complaint, may sabotage their attempt to address their concerns or obtain justice.

Kohn writes, “Complying with the statute of limitations is particularly relevant in whistleblower cases. First, some of the limitations periods are very short. The periods are measured in days, not years.”

Nondisclosure Agreements

When Senator Grassley launched an inquiring into alleged tax abuses at six TV ministries, televangelists Kenneth Copeland and Paula White warned former employees to not speak to Senate investigators or they would be in violation of nondisclosure agreements.

The New Whistleblower’s Handbook addresses this issue. “But there is good news concerning restrictive employment agreements. Any employer who requires an employee to sign an agreement not to disclose potential crimes to the government is in violation of numerous laws, including the Securities Exchange Act and the federal obstruction of justice laws.

The New Whistleblower’s Handbook is a timely book for future whistleblowers. We highly recommend it.

Last but not Least, CONTACT US AS EARLY IN THE PROCESS AS POSSIBLE, PLEASE

We have plenty of experience in reporting our findings to the authorities and may be able to help you move your case forward.  We have been maintaining people’s confidentiality and privacy for decades–214-827-2625.

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