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Constantine Cannon Partner Gordon Schnell Featured in Forbes on the Boeing Whistleblower Saga and the Need for Greater Protections for Aviation Whistleblowers

Posted  May 3, 2024

Recently, Boeing whistleblowers have been speaking up about concerns surrounding the design and manufacturing of Boeing aircrafts. Despite Boeing’s denial of retaliation against the whistleblowers, according to a recent article in Forbes, they revealed faults in Boeing’s ‘Speak Up’ policy. These issues not only highlight challenges within Boeing but also underscore deficiencies in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) whistleblower protection program. FAA whistleblower protection program. 

The Forbes piece also extensively featured Constantine Cannon whistleblower partner Gordon Schnell to offer insight to the Boeing situation and highlight the weaknesses in the FAA whistleblower program. He discusses the importance of a robust whistleblower program within the aviation industry, pointing out that the current FAA AIR21 program lacks the necessary structure and incentives to effectively protect whistleblowers. Schnell advocates for a formalized program akin to those found in other agencies, which offer dedicated units and rewards for whistleblowers. 

Schnell said the fact that so many Boeing whistleblowers have gone to the press underscores the need for a stronger, protected channel for aviation whistleblowers to report their concerns to the government. “The road of a whistleblower is extremely difficult, and when it becomes part of the public profile, it becomes even worse,” Schnell explained, noting how strongly he discourages his whistleblower-clients from speaking to the press. A well-established whistleblower program would provide a safer and more effective avenue for addressing concerns within the aviation industry. 

It also would provide more incentive for aviation companies to treat their whistleblowers more fairly. “The current protections that the FAA has for whistleblowers, like many other agencies that don’t have reward programs, doesn’t do much to discourage companies from punishing whistleblowers who come forward,” he says. “I think that scares a lot of whistleblowers away.” 

While Boeing whistleblowers have brought attention to critical issues within the company, Schnell stresses that the goal is not monetary gain but rather the creation of a safer and more accountable aviation industry.  

It’s really about allowing or creating a program with a solid foundation. Unfortunately, you need lawyers with these whistleblowers, and unless there’s a rewards program, it’s not easy for the whistleblower to hire a lawyer.” 

He highlights the success of whistleblower rewards programs in other contexts, such as the  False Claims Act for fraud against the government or the SEC Whistleblower Program for securities violations, in incentivizing individuals to come forward with valuable information. 

Considering these recent events, Schnell urges Congress to consider implementing a formal rewards-based program for the FAA, which would provide whistleblowers with a clearer path to report their concerns and deter retaliation by aviation companies. 

“Knowing there’s this formalized program out there would also probably make the aviation companies tread a little more carefully with how they treat whistleblowers,” Schnell concludes in the interview.  

If you have information relating to potential government contract fraud, securities violations, or any other area of fraud or misconduct impacting the government or public and would like to speak to a member of the Constantine Cannon whistleblower lawyer team, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free and confidential consultation.