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Portrait of a Whistleblower

How one man decided to expose the truth

February 11, 2009
Portrait of a Whistleblower
When former Siemens employee Per Monsen reported to his superiors that the company was overcharging the Norwegian Department of Defense, he had no idea how it would throw his life into chaos.
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In 2003, Per Yngve Monsen, chief-controller at Siemens Business Services in Norway, noticed some irregularities in the invoices Siemens sent to the Norwegian Department of Defense as part of a large contract for a communications system.

Monsen detected an extra $6 million on the bills for the contract that didn't correspond to any of the services provided. He alerted his superiors in Norway but was told not to worry. Frustrated by their lack of interest in what appeared to be fraud, Monsen sent the documents anonymously to Siemens' headquarters in Germany.

Rather than correct the error, the company allegedly intimidated Monsen and eventually dismissed him. But Monsen's disclosures ultimately led Norwegian prosecutors to investigate Siemens and their Norwegian Defense Department contacts. In 2005, Siemens was prosecuted in Norway and ordered to pay Monsen approximately $240,000 for wrongful termination, in addition to a $1.6 million fine to the government and $19.5 million back to the Norwegian Army.

For Siemens, the Monsen case was only one in a series of allegations of bribery and corrupt practices around the world. By December 2008, Siemens agreed to pay a record total of $1.6 billion in fines in the U.S. and Germany after law enforcement agencies in both countries uncovered a network of illegal payments to officials in Italy, Venezuela, Bangladesh and Nigeria, among others.

To read the verdict from Per Monsen's suit against Siemens, as translated from Norwegian by Elisabeth Undall Styren, click here (PDF).

RELATED STORY

At Siemens, Bribery Was Just a Line Item
The unusual journey of Reinhard Siekaczek, a former midlevel executive at the German engineering giant Siemens, helps explain how the company ended up paying $1.6 billion in the largest fine for bribery in modern corporate history.

Portrait of a Whistleblower

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REACTIONS


Melbourne, Australia
On the TPI, one has to remember that it is based (among other things) on surveys about how likely it is to be asked for a bribe in a
particular country. The TPI does not measure who is doing the bribing, nor
does it distinguish between different types of bribery.If you want a better picture on which countries are likely paying bribes, use the TPI to work out if a country is responsive to bribes, then look up data on who the biggest trading partners are with that particular country, then examine sensitive areas such as defense and public works contracts. Look at the major players, and then look at their connections (ownership, national interest, etc) to their home government.


EDMUND GALKE - OAKDALE, NY

I doubt that Nigerians who would not willingly swim along with the corruption current are in the majority. However, it is not too late to begin to groom a new breed of decent Nigerians. But it will take time.

I have repeatedly tried for over two years to convince my union and our attorneys and other blogs on the internet how a huge company such as Siemens AG. has had a continuous history of bribery and corruption. Siemens was before and during World War II one of the most egregious entities to use both forced and slave labor entailing the deaths of thousands of innocent war victims. These were Poles, Hungarians, Jews and many others such as gypsysies and homosexuals. They tried for years to deny their implications involving the mistreatment of these parties. They wanted to contribute a very minimal amount of monies for the reparations for the innocent victims who died and suffered inhumane treatments in their labor camps.

Siemens was just recently fined over $1 billion by various United States agencies for their recent violations of the corruption and bribery laws of many countries. As a matter of fact they are forbidden to solicit work from numerous countries such as Greece and Russia among others.

My union's attorneys, who are supposed to be officers of the court, have totally ignored my repeated letters to them, trying to warn them of the unsafe working sites I have been employed on, and their complete disregard for any negative criticism regarding supplying a safe working environment.

Naturally my activities resulted in my termination, and even the whistleblowers agency and OSHA were reached in some manner so that my evidence was ignored, even though I had photos to prove my complaints. I know this letter is an effort in futility, but it is my conviction that at some times one man can make a difference.

Thank you.


(anonymous)
....And we condemn African countries as the most corrupt in the world? While we are busy corrupting them and getting all the benefits from it, while the poor people from these impoverished countries suffer? What a shame. The Transparency International index rating is "nonsense" as far as I'm concerned. The first world gets a passing grade, while the third world gets the back marks, and gets stuck with poor ratings from the same people that give them bribes? Wow, talk about a double whammy. It is like saying a corpse gets involved in ghastly motor accident.


Irene - New York, NY
What a brave man, an ethical man. Seems to be a rarity in the corporate world. Whistleblowers are basically subjected to terrorization from the company and/or govt perpetrators. They should be not only protected but rewarded as heroes. Notice that no one wants to hire a whistleblower -- does everyone have something terrible to hide? Are the executives that fired him still working for Siemens?


laurie - chicago, IL
Really fascinating. It would make a great movie (like Lowell Bergman's other whistleblower movie, "The Insider").


Berkeley, CA
What a moving interview! My question is whether any whistleblower benefits from notifying the public of corruption? It seems, even with laws on the books to protect whistleblowers, one must selflessly endanger their career and circumstances to do this public good. I do understand that Siekaczek is not quite a whistleblower, as he knew what was taking place at Siemens.

 

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