Does your organization really want to be known for having a CEO who actively works to unmask whistleblowers? If you have such a CEO, what does that communicate to your employees and what will be the echo from the bottom, where employees on the front lines of your organization are in a better position to observe and report wrongdoing? And what are the implications of the Supreme Court stripping whistleblowers of Dodd-Frank anti-retaliation protections, unless they go directly to the Securities and Exchange Commission?
These questions and others were raised in the recent U.S. Postal Service Inspector General’s report on the use of U.S. Postal Service inspectors to try and unmask the whistleblower at Barclays, whose identity CEO Jes Staley allegedly ordered be uncovered. According to the allegations, Barclays communicated to the USPS that security concerns were raised by a whistleblower’s letter to the bank’s board about a crony of CEO Staley. Barclays’ security department then asked the USPS to investigate who might have mailed the letter.
This series of unfortunate events demonstrates how far CEOs can go when they decide to engage in such behavior. When Barclays’ security department demurred on the request, recognizing it was clearly out of bounds, Staley then renewed his request for information with the head of the bank’s security department directly. This bank official, Troels Oerting, allegedly used his connections to contact the USPS with the false claim of a security breach. At some point later, employees in the bank’s security department raised their concerns on the impropriety of the matter directly up to the bank’s board of directors and the attempts to unmask the whistleblower by Staley ceased.