In war against fraud, whistleblowers on front lines
Whistleblower Jim Holzrichter with Richard Zott, the former federal agent who worked on his case.
October 25th, 2012
08:59 AM ET

In war against fraud, whistleblowers on front lines

By Libby Lewis, CNN

(CNN) - Whistleblowers are a hot item these days as new programs aimed at reducing fraud on Wall Street are up and running.

They’re building on a long tradition of laws that let people call out corporate wrongdoing and get rewarded for it.

But while some people win big, a lot of people pay a bigger price for doing good.

Jim Holzrichter’s story would cause many to ask: Who would do such a thing to themselves and their family? Why would anyone stick out his neck and go through hell to call out wrongdoing?

One reason Holzrichter blew the whistle on his employer, Northrop Grumman, is that he had to. Federal agent Richard Zott came to his house one day, after Holzrichter had been finding irregularities in Northrop’s parts and materials inventories. Zott had heard about it and said he wanted to talk.

[5:35] “I told him that if he had information and he wasn’t going be cooperative, that I would be coming to see him the next time with handcuffs.”

But it came to be Holzrichter’s life for the next 17 years. He lived through the stuff of a Hollywood thriller – through things Zott says “he would not wish on anyone.” Today, Holzrichter mentors OTHER whistleblowers – while they go through some of what HE did.

[11:33] “It comes back to me what my father said,” Holzrichter says. “When is it ever wrong to do the right thing? It’s not easy. But there are those who just have that ethical compass – who don’t allow themselves to walk away when they see something’s wrong.”

Editor's Note: Listen to the complete story above and join the conversation below.

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Filed under: Justice • Stories
soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. justjill

    Remember that evil flourishe"s when good people do nothing. Monday I will be appearing before a judge while my landlord attempts to evict me and my young child.
    What was our crime, you may ask? My child speaking up! Very sad from Bristol, RI
    We are both disabled and covet your prayers. Predator on lifetime parole for brutal murder. Landlord claimed to have done background checks. Cops sitting on active warrant! He should have never been in our yard to begin with. When I informed
    Landlord, she said "I just ruined her day" .(July 4). Well this mother is fighting. I am my child' only advocate in the end. This should not happen to a child for speaking up. He is my hero. Thanks for listening.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dr.Jeff Condit

    I met James H. at a Whistleblower conference in D.C. a few years back. I was impressed. He is exactly as he says. One of the true "good guys". He was an inspiration to many of us that year but, unfortunately, most of us did not go on to prevail. My complaint was against the VA for patient neglect and abuse. I went through normal channels with my complaints but received zero support and, in fact, experienced a pattern of being ostracized by the administration. I fought with the aid of a good attorney ,testified before congress twice but the toll on me emotionally and financially proved too much. After eleven years I gave up and retired early. (A friend told me early on that the VA had "very deep pockets" and, as a result, would outlast me. He was right). But I do not regret what I did. I saw a situation that was wrong and I refused to ignore it. I am very proud of what I did. Sure, I still harbor resentment and especially towards the administrators who fought me with fabricated stories and half truths. But those ill feelings are fleeting and minuscule in size when compared to the pride I feel about what I did. And, I am glad for Jim and all others who were able to prevail. They serve as a good, lasting reminder that truth and good, personal ethics really do matter.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jonesy

    THe things we wish we could say! That is the horrible thing about the hatch act during this election major crackdowns all of a sudden on speaking out. I say if the person is a MSG or RSO they should speak freely about who will do a better job given their expert opinion. Same with any and every other agency.

    October 26, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. tawodi

    My Brother is the youngest one in our family of three brothers and a sister.Perhaps some day the full story of his courage through the years will be fully told, who knows? I only know that now with just the two of us left we are as close as we were when all this was going on and it was horrible for him and for me who was powerless to help in any way there is much much more to the story that will perhaps never be told as he doesn't like to relive it but in his work with fellow whistleblowers and their stories and courage to do the right thing I am proud of his ability, what it takes to go out every day and continue to pursue the "right" just because it IS right! Thank you to C.N.N. AND THE INTERVIEWER FOR THEIR WORK TO BRING THIS STORY FORWARD AND IN HELPING MY BROTHER HELP OTHERS.
    Rev. Bruce H. Holzrichter Sr.

    October 26, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  5. Evelynn Brown, J.D., LL.M

    I'm glad to see this article with Jim Holzrichter mentioned. He is absolutely correct that there is no thank you from anyone when you do the ethical thing to help others. There is an entire industry booming because of whistleblowers. Only problem...no one will ever hire one despite the fact that a whistleblower may have saved your life, your investments, your home and your job...it's thankless work. But we continue to help each and every whistleblower we can because without them, we are doomed. See my story here...http://whistlewatch.org/2012/10/if-you-want-to-show-you-protect-whistleblowers-hire-one-or-re-hire-one-you-fired/

    October 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Libby Lewis

      Interesting idea for a jobs program – hire a whistleblower today! Thank you for joining the conversation. It's good to see Mr. Holzrichter here, as well. If anyone here has a story they'd like to share more of, let me know. libby.lewis@turner.com

      October 25, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
      • James Holzrichter Sr.

        Libby: Thank you for your honesty and your integrity. In this world of people saying one thing and doing another your reassurance to me you would handle and treat this story in the fashion you did needs to be applauded. If anybody has any doubt that Ms. Lewis misrepresents herself please feel free to contact me through her and I will correct that misconception. Also on TAFNET Pat Burns from Taxpayers against Fraud had high praise for your representaion of this story. Again I thank you.

        October 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. onestarman

    WHISLEBLOWERS – Like the Messenger Bearing Bad News are often KILLED or otherwise Destroyed. Julian Assange has made it his Life Work to help Whisleblowers but when he told the American People that the War in Afghanistan was going much worse than we had been told he was attacked with a KGB Style 'Sex-Scandal' because it is so Easy to accuse and almost Impossible to "prove oneself Innocent so you Presumed Guilty and Destroyed in the Complicit Media. The Private who improbably released the information has been subjected to Isolation and Psychological Torture and Physical Mistreatment for DARING to tell us the TRUTH. The CRIMINALS on Wall Street did more DAMAGE to this Country than 19 Guys with Box-Cutters did on 9/11 yet Our Government REWARDS them with enough Money to buy the Broken Dreams of America for a Penny on the Dollar and Leave Millions Homeless and Unemployed. There is a Goldman Sachs 'Whistleblower' that is shedding Light on the Ethic-Less EVIL that is Wall Street right NOW and his REWARD will probably be that he will never work in the Industry again – IF he escapes with his LIFE.

    October 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JadedandBitter

    We talk a big game about valuing honesty and integrity in this country, but when the chips are down almost nobody really lives that way. Mostly we value stoicism, tenacity, and pragmatism. As was said before, nobody gets rich being honest and following all the rules. Try being completely honest and forthright in your next job interview and see how much that is appreciated when you are compared to the 100 so so other applicants who have no problem with fudging their achievements and qualifications. I guarentee that the interviewer will not be thinking to himself "what an honest guy! I need someone like that working for us," he'll more likely be thinking, "if this is the most he can stretch the truth without getting caught, he must be REALLY worthless!" Welcome to America!

    October 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dennis

    The shysters of the world will push it to the limit as long as they have lawyers to cover their butts. Most of them are being watched and eventually someone smarter will take them down. I'm waiting for this to happen in the banking and wall street mob right now. Just a matter of time.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. 2012marandalaw

    A "Rich Tough Guy"...Should never be able to Hurt anyone,for telling the Truth...

    October 25, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Rob Jenner

    Our firm represents whistleblowers as they fight for the greater good. This recording was an excellent look into what can happen to those who stand up. Not every whistleblower is subjected to such personal issues. Don't let this scare you from doing the right thing.

    If you have a potential example of corporate fraud that you want to expose please contact me.


    October 25, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • James Holzrichter Sr.

      My intenetion was to never scare anyone away from doing the right thing it was to encourage others that even if it is difficult and you are not sure of the outcome it can and should be endured if for nothing else then being able to look at yourself in the mirror

      October 25, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. James Holzrichter Sr.

    The issue with whistleblower laws is enforceability. You have to prove beyond a doubt for criminal and a preponderance for civil. None of it matters if after the day is over you settle the case out of court, all of the retaliation, all of the punishment you are subjected to goes away with the settlement. The defendants KNOW this and play on it which leaves you at their mercy during the case (and they have none), because they know that no matter what they do to you they will not be held accountable for it because they settle before you sue them for it.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. midwest3

    There is a policy in place (the state is my employer) that you cannot lose your job in such situations as have been discussed – including sexual harassment. However, just try it and you'll see how quickly you'll be out the door. And in the meantime, you will be re-assigned, and it's never a "good" re-assignment! The good-old-boys network is alive and well.

    October 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ellen

    It's a dangerous world for whistleblowers. People who claim to want to support you (Obama) will throw you in prison in a SECOND (Wikileaks) if it affects them negatively, even if it's the right thing to do.

    October 25, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      If it affects you negatively by releasing classified information or threatening national security. Whistleblowing means contacting the appropriate authorities outside of your chain of command and pointing out that something is wrong and what details you know, not publishing classified information on the internet for public consumption.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
      • OTR

        Unfortunately, Mike, the appropriate authorities outside your chain of command don't always exist as titled entities. Who has authority over the government? The people. How do you get this info to the people? The media.

        Even when the appropriate authorities do exist, change often requires external exposure in order to come about.

        October 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
      • rp1588

        It is interesting that the war crimes revealed by wikileaks were not prosecuted.

        October 25, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Scaredy-cat

    I work for a department in the Federal government and witness waste, fraud, abuse, coercion every day from upper Management but will not report it given the fact there will be no protection or immunity and I need my job.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • NC

      I agree. Only a rich person can afford to be a whistleblower. Most of us working people can't afford the consequences.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
      • James Holzrichter Sr.

        I was not wealthy and no not only the wealthy or guilty are whistlblowers that is an inaccuarte representation of just who we are and the price we pay.

        October 25, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Harold

    I worked at a chemical manufacturing facility in Calvert City, Kentucky for approximately 16 years. I saw and reported to OHSA and the EPA multiple acts that had a terrible effect on the environment and safety. During this process I worked with both OSHA and the EPA for over six months before they cited and fined the company. OSHA cited and fined the company on several serious issues. I also receive a thank you letter from OSHA for my efforts. Within a couple of days of the company being cited and fined I was fired. OSHA was required by law to grant me a hearing but refused to do so. I was told by my attorney that I could sue OSHA however even if I were to win the case OSHA would claim immunity. My family and I have suffered hardships because of being abandoned by OSHA and the EPA.

    October 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  16. ROMNEY2012

    Whistleblowers are nothing but democrat stooges trying to reditribute welath to the worthless welfare trash. This human garbage still owns PS3/Xbox/Giant TV's yet they cry and whine about not being able to afford lobster and steak.

    Romney will clean out the trash!
    ROMNEY 2012 or America will be 100% white trash

    October 25, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • madmatt

      Racist pedophilia supporting cultists like Mitt shouldn't be allowed to vote, much less run.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grumpster

      Hey ROMNEY2012...you must work for big oil or coal from what I can tell. Only an idiot would not recognize the importance of people who are willing to stand up against those who would intentionaly cause harm to others or the environment. If not, we'd have a world with nothing but Love Canals and Tennessee Valley ash flows, and superfund cleanup sites. You are whacked...completely. The GOP would have us dismantle those protections.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • o

      Don't feed the trolls.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • citizen_interested_in_dialog

      Down boy. Lets introduce a little more civility into our dialogue.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Socrates

      I can see that this gentleman is a truly 1% guy. Millionaire, entrepreneur and 100% of Mitt who represent the 1% in this election.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Hugh Jass

    If you blew the whistle on me, I would just use the law to wreck your life. Perfectly legal for me to sue you over and over and over, and you may hire a lawyer at your convenience to defend yourself. My lawyer is in Zurich and his witnesses are in Japan, soyour lawyer will have to bill you when he flies to these places to confer, but you can afford it, right? You can't? Then I win and you go to prison. What a wonderful world when you are rich!!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Maybe you should look into how the real world works and then try your comment again....

      October 25, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grumpster

      @Huge EGO...what would prevent this guy from filing frivolous lawsuits against you and harassing you as well. Go sit in your glass house....we'll find you.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • citizen_interested_in_dialog

      Absolutely right. I worked for a group of attorneys once and a patent belonging to one of their clients was being infringed by a much larger company. The larger company was stealing their technology. I said "why don't you get the courts to force the big company to stop?". Both of the attorneys laughed at my naivete. Once of them explaiend that the case, not being clear cut, would require vast amounts of money to prove. Much more money then their client (and we are talking a corporation not a person) could afford. In short – their client didn't not have enough money to buy justice in US courts. I think there is often justice in our courts – but I also think that wealthy parties frequently can run the judicial system to their advantage regardless of whether their case is just or not.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Or maybe I would represent myself and wait for your lawyer and witnesses to materialize. After all, I don't charge myself a dime for adequate legal representation.

      October 25, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • joet

      I would just counter sue you. My lawyer is in Washington DC and with offices all over the world. Tit for Tat, in other words, time to grow up! I guess your name matches your personality.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  18. whitetourqoise

    I feel victimized by actions from KBR. Whie deployed to Iraq on contract, they foorced me to accept a re-write of a contract that eliminated a worked for R&R. I had an approved r&r in place with a non-refundable airfare ticket. Instead of my 10 days off after 4 months of 12 hr days 7 days a week they expected me to perform an 84 hr workweek for 9 months before eligibility for my next R&R. I was counseled to make arequest to another site manager after a shuffle. This manager led me on and lied to me. He provoked an angry response from me which led to an event that I'm sure the upper level managers anticipated and hoped for. As a result my clearance was withdrawn as I resigned my position and went home without recieving my vacation pay. Now destitute without any income mytardiness on bills prevents me from obtaining re-activation of my clearance. Several great job offers have been rescinded. In Las Vegas there are more losers than gamblers. I absolutely feel helpless against confronting unethical actions by an employer who has most likely earned BILLIONS on the backs of hard working patriots who got shafted. Losing my sanity and everything I worked for for my whole life without a job. I'd like to trade my resentments for a lawsuit and get my clearance back.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      You failed to see the big picture. Did you never stop to think why we ended up in Iraq in the first place? What did you think the moral spearhead of a company like KBR would be, given it's ethics history? What do you think happens when you hang around the wrong crowd? You slept with the Devil, and you got the horns.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |

      WHITETOURQOISE- That's what happens when you have to work for organizations with the terrible disease of AVARICE, and most of them have the republican, fascism ideology. They want all you blood, sweat and tears as many hours a day they can force out of you with no real rewards. Keep electing republicans and that's what we will have all over the US.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      "Force" is a strong word. "Convinced through threats of job loss", sure, but not forced.

      October 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Rocket

    Why are there not stronger laws on the books, because a lot of politictians would end up in prison, that is why. If you were a crook, would you be supporting a law that would cost you your pension, your job, life and family. It is wrong, but take a look at how laws and regulations as passed, the people making these laws alwasy seem to some how become excluded from them.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Grumpster

      There are not stronger laws on the books because of the Romneys of the world getting elected by people who are stupid enough to buy their ever-changing BS. 911 was not an accident, it was a set-up to give us reason to go in after resources and to send warmongering companies like Haliburton to go in to rebuild at our expense. Why else would there have been thermite dust in the wreckage that NIST did not even bother to look for?

      October 25, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
      • mike

        I don't think we can just point and say "It's the Republicans fault!" After all, there have been plenty of Democrat-controlled Houses and Senates that could have taken advantage of their numerous windows of opportunity to enact such laws, if that were the case.

        October 25, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Jim35

    I caught my co worker browsing the web instead of working one day, I informed management and got him fired. I was not given any reward for my efforts.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Justa Guy

      So you want a reward to tattling on your co-worker like your in first grade? If I were your boss I would never trust you again.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
      • midwest3

        To Justaguy: AMEN!

        October 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Personally, I think you should've been fired... for spending too much time looking over your co-worker's shoulders and not enough time working and minding your own business!

      October 25, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  21. ontheouts

    I was a whistleblower about theft of Recovery Act funds and two days after I 'blew the whistle' I got fired. So much for being honest!!!

    October 25, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • madmatt

      Then sue the company and make sure the press knows what they did.

      October 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Dnlean

    Blew the whistle at work and three months later was in a lower position on a different shift. Couldn't over come the network allowing it to happen.

    October 25, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • lerianis

      Not without strong laws to protect whistle-blowers, no we cannot.

      I personally feel that if the federal government won't do it, perhaps it is time for the President to write an executive order mandating arrest for retaliation against whistle-blowers. I am sure that under NUMEROUS other laws already on the books, we could get these arrogant crooks.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
      • ncgh

        While whistle blowers need (and get) some protection, it's not always fully clear. Did the WB partake in the criminal activitiy and is now looking to get off the hook? Is it someone who is about to be let go opening a case to prevent them from being fired? Someone being bribed by a competitor to cause problems in a company? What if the charges are proved groundless and possibly reckless or even malicious? Are they setting a grudge against a person or company? What if the information exposes others (possibly innocent) to risk, or to expose a legal investigation?

        This is not to besmirch legitimate whistle blowing, but cases need to be evaluated on their own circumstances.

        October 25, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Hugh Jass

      It is impossible to run a big business legally and make money. There is criminal activity in every fast food joint, garage, and movie theater. No one is honest, and no one cares, and police stations and courtrooms are no different. Blow your whistle and watch how we fix you, snitch!

      October 25, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
      • Jorge

        See? That's why I fix my own cars, eat brown-bag lunches and scalp movies from P2P sites. Take your crooked business and shove it, loser.

        October 25, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Alicia

    Protected, really, where and when? People are not protected being a victim of crime. They are made to testify and then have to do that every year to keep the person behind bars. Why would it be any different for people doing the right thing and trying to make a better place to live?

    October 25, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  24. NDgal

    I know, right? Where I work, some rather shady stuff was happening, somebody called in some bigger dogs, and now management at my work is sniffing around, trying to find out who called them in...... so much for protection, right??? Who cares who called it in, fix the damn problem, and let everyone get on with their lives!!!!!

    October 25, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Howard

      You seem to expect those guilty of wrongdoing to suddenly "straighten up and fly right." If they were truly the kind to do that, they would've done "the right thing" in the first place. It's hard for most of us to realize that those who do really bad things, don't JUST do ONE really bad thing ... they've been doing a lot of bad things for some time and getting away with it.

      October 25, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
      • Hugh Jass

        We got a purchaser fired once for big-time theft and he was allowed to resign and go to work doing the same thing instead of prison. That's what always happens; corruption is one of the perks of a management job. Do As Thou Wilt Be Thy Only Law.

        October 25, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  25. DXTR

    Yeah right, I caught the Navy rigging the drug test by resetting the random generator table and I took it to the ADJ of the Navy and was called a whistle blower and tried for treason and given a general OTH discharge. So yeah go ahead and tell the truth of what you know.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      No...that did not happen....

      October 25, 2012 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
      • Jorge

        The Navy, not corrupt??? In Puerto Rico they whitewashed the deaths of a mother and her two small children at the hands of a drunken officer who ran them over several years ago, before that they violated various national security and federal environmental safety regulations by illegally leasing out target practice rights with heavy metal rounds to foreign forces on U.S. soil upwind of a civilian population. Before that they failed to pay their utility bills to the Puerto Rico water and power authorities (public corporations funded by Puerto Rican taxpayers) for forty years, before that they turned Fort San Cristobal, a national landmark, into a golf course for commisioned officers behind congress' back before a visiting U.S. senator's wife was hit with a ball and he nailed them for misuse of public lands. My daughter once expressed her desire to join the Navy after high school, I told her she would be safer hanging with a herd of bikers, and I told her why, that straightened her out.

        October 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
      • DXTR

        Hey Rich, Get back to work.

        October 25, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      What's your whole story?

      October 25, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  26. lerianis

    Bottom line is that whistleblowers should be protected by law and companies who fire them should be shut down permanently or whoever condoned their firing arrested for a criminal offense.

    October 25, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      No one is protected by those laws. The Congress passes up every opportunity to protect them that comes up.

      Crooks protecting crooks.

      October 25, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
      • lerianis

        Agreed. It is crooks protecting crooks, though some politicians bring this up every year and the laws that they put forward are tabled without discussion.

        October 25, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |