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Project on Government Oversight

POGO Letter to Congressional Committees that have jurisdiction over whistleblower protection issues

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May 23, 2006

Senator Richard Shelby, Chairman,
Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

Senator Paul Sarbanes, Ranking Member,
Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee

Senator Susan Collins, Chair,
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

Senator Joseph Lieberman, Ranking Member,
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

Representative Michael Oxley, Chairman,
House Financial Services Committee

Representative Barney Frank, Ranking Member,
House Financial Services Committee

Representative Tom Davis, Chairman,
House Government Reform Committee

Representative Henry Waxman, Ranking Member,
House Government Reform Committee


Dear Senators and Representatives:

We are writing to express our deep concern over the mischaracterization of former FannieMae accountant Roger Barnes. This is yet another example of the unresolved issue of protecting corporate whistleblowers from retaliation.

The Project On Government Oversight is an independent nonprofit that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in order to achieve a more accountable federal government. As such, we are dedicated to the protection of government and corporate employees who report misconduct to further the public good.

FannieMae's misconduct, which resulted in a multibillion-dollar accounting scandal, has been detailed in a comprehensive report from its federal regulator, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), and a large monetary fine is being levied against FannieMae.

However Mr. Barnes, who attempted to bring the improprieties to light, is still being unjustly depicted as a disgruntled employee who was alleging racial discrimination. The report issued by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP, alleges that Mr. Barnes attempted to make FannieMae executives aware of the accounting mismanagement because he believed he was the victim of racial discrimination. Yet, Mr. Barnes had extensive documentation of FannieMae's accounting problems.

We are imploring you to ensure that this inaccurate depiction of Mr. Barnes is not allowed to stand as the last word, especially since the OFHEO report provides ample vindication of Mr. Barnes.

This case illustrates the precarious situation of corporate whistleblowers, despite the existence of corporate whistleblower protections granted by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. These protections are constantly being challenged and must be reinforced by the vigilant oversight of this issue that Congress can provide.

Sincerely,

Danielle Brian
Executive Director