Skip to main content

On July 19, the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability (the “Committee”) hosted a hearing featuring two IRS whistleblowers that took place just one day after D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser proclaimed July 30, 2023, as Whistleblower Appreciation Day.

At the hearing, IRS Supervisory Special Agent Gary Shapley and IRS Criminal Investigator Joseph Ziegler, formerly known as “Whistleblower X,” appeared before the committee to address their concerns regarding what they viewed as improper handling of the Hunter Biden tax case.

Although the hearing involved fierce debate from both sides of the aisle, there was a clear consensus between Republicans and Democrats on one specific topic: whistleblowers play a crucial role in upholding our country’s democracy.

Seemingly every member of Congress who took part in the hearing conveyed their deep appreciation for the credible IRS Whistleblowers who stepped forward to share their stories. Several members of the Committee went beyond recognizing the specific witnesses and shared their belief that whistleblowers play a vital role in rooting out fraud of any kind.

Specifically, the U.S. Congressman for Texas’ 117th District, Pete Sessions, who serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations and Federal Workforce, expressed a strong desire to hold his own hearing on whistleblower protections.

“Any retaliation against whistleblowers by the IRS constitutes a severe violation against hardworking Americans,” he said.

Congressman Sessions made clear his frustrations with retaliatory actions of any kind by federal agencies during his speech and questioning period at the hearing. He emphasized that the IRS, an agency responsible for enforcing fair laws on all citizens, including the well-connected, should be held accountable for any breach of whistleblower protection laws.

The 6-hour hearing repeatedly touched on the extensive questioning the two IRS whistleblowers underwent in front of select Ways and Means Committee members. Discussions also delved into the provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act, which ensures that all whistleblowers, like Shapley and Zeigler, are shielded from mistreatment, abnormal behavior, and retaliation by their employers when making legally protected disclosures.

During the lengthy hearing, the two whistleblowers shared their experiences facing retaliation, prompting Congressman Sessions to declare his intent to confront the IRS and other agencies regarding claims of retaliation.

Here are just a few examples of how members of Congress from both sides of the aisle expressed their support for federal whistleblowers coming forward without fear of retaliation:

  • Chairman James Cromer of Kentucky’s 1st District introduced the witnesses and described them as both “brave” and risking their careers by coming forward, recognizing the gravity of coming forward as a whistleblower.
  • Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York’s 14th District thanked the whistleblowers for attending and expressed the importance of the whistleblowers being “respected during this hearing.”
  • Representative Pete Sessions of Texas’ 17th District expressed gratitude and described the whistleblowers as “strong people” with an “ethical and moral idea” about their service to this country.
  • Representative Pat Fallon of Texas’ 4th District spoke to how “credible” well “experienced” and “subject matter experts” the IRS whistleblowers are while thanking them.

Ultimately, the hearing shed light on the indispensable role played by whistleblowers in safeguarding democracy and upholding the rule of law just before for the U.S. Senate unanimously recognized National Whistleblower Day.

Titi Unegbu

Titi Unegbu

Titilayo K. Unegbu is an Intern at Zerbe, Miller, Fingeret, Frank & Jadav LLP.

Leave a Reply