In 2017 alone, of the US$3.7 billion recovered by the US government under the FCA, US$ 3.4 billion was recovered due to whistleblower disclosures. Of the recovered funds, whistleblowers received US$392 million in rewards.
There are multiple reasons as to why the FCA is such a powerful tool for halting wildlife crime. Not only is there a clearly-delineated evidentiary threshold for litigation, but also non-US citizens are eligible for whistleblower rewards. Even NGOs can blow the whistle and be eligible to receive compensation. (In 2017, the Natural Resources Defense Council, a fellow IUCN member, received a portion of a $920,000 award under the FCA.)
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
The FCPA can also be used to litigate wildlife crime cases that occur outside the US.
It prohibits publicly-traded corporations, both US and international, from paying bribes to foreign officials. The FCPA also mandates proper financial record keeping. Jurisdiction is established when foreign companies permit US investors to buy their stocks through the use of American Depositary Receipts (ADRs).
In the wildlife crime context, if an individual has evidence of inaccurate financial record keeping that covers up wildlife trafficking, or papers that show the wiring of funds to pay for illegal wildlife products, there may be sufficient evidence to litigate an FCPA case so long as the company involved is under its jurisdiction. This jurisdiction includes an extensive list of foreign companies.
Money is an instrumental element to oiling the cogs of the wildlife trade, and illicit transactions leave a paper trail.
From 2011 to 2017, 2,655 whistleblowers from 113 countries filed claims under the FCPA whistleblower reward provision. Over US$30 million has been paid to non-US citizens who reported bribes paid overseas. FCPA prosecutions have included cases in which bribes were paid at ports in Kenya and to government officials in Argentina. Whistleblowers are eligible to receive between 10% and 30% of the total amount recovered after a successful prosecution.
Again, this could be a game-changer in the area of wildlife crime. Money is an instrumental element to oiling the cogs of the wildlife trade, and illicit transactions leave a paper trail. If someone has evidence of bribery or other financial transactions passed through a US or US-linked corporation that facilitated wildlife trafficking, there may be a basis for an FCPA case.
The FCA and FCPA are just two examples of US whistleblower award laws that can be applied to the wildlife context. There are numerous other whistleblower award laws, including some that are conservation-specific, that can be leveraged to halt not only wildlife crime but also environmental pollution.
Our Work at National Whistleblower Center
National Whistleblower Center (NWC) was selected as a Grand Prize Winner of the 2016 Global Crime Tech Challenge, an initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with fellow IUCN members National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and TRAFFIC.
As part of our mandate as a winner of the Crime Tech Challenge, we are promoting the existence of these whistleblower reward laws. Our Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program seeks to inform wildlife whistleblowers of their rights and educate NGOs about these powerful legal tools at their disposal.