Howard Wilkinson is an international hero who risked his career and livelihood to stop what many experts consider to be the largest money-laundering scandal in world banking history at Danske Bank.
Mr. Wilkinson is a former employee of Danske Bank who confidentially raised concerns over an illegal money laundering scheme in 2013. In September of 2018, news reports on the $234 billion scandals revealed the existence of a whistleblower but not the identity. Mr. Wilkinson had wished to remain anonymous, but his name was leaked to an Estonia newspaper.
Mr. Wilkinson is represented by top whistleblower attorneys Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP (“KKC”). KKC sent demands to law enforcement authorities in Estonia, and Denmark takes actions to protect Howard Wilkinson from whistleblower retaliation.
The letter written by Mr. Wilkinson’s attorney, Stephen M. Kohn, raised the concern that Danske Bank was behind the illegal leak of the whistleblower’s identity to an Estonian newspaper. The letter stated:
“The article cited to four employees of Danske Bank as sources. Mr. Wilkinson was identified without his knowledge or consent. Much of the information related by the Danske employees was not accurate. We are extremely concerned that Danske Bank, which knew the whistleblower’s identity, has violated his human rights protected under law. We hereby request that your agencies take prompt action to ensure that Mr. Wilkinson is not subjected to further retaliation, violations of his rights to privacy and/or his fundamental human rights.”
In a press release following the leak of Mr. Wilkinson’s identity, Kohn made the following statement:
“The multi-billion-dollar money-laundering scheme from Russia to Western banks was first revealed by Mr. Wilkinson five years ago. His identity had remained strictly confidential throughout this time. On September 26, 2018, his identity was illegally revealed and no less than four employees of Danske Bank discussed his employment relationship with the Bank without Mr. Wilkinson’s knowledge or consent. Many of these disclosures to the press were not accurate. This breach of confidentiality sends a chilling effect to all whistleblowers that have the courage and ethics of Mr. Wilkinson. We request the Danish and Estonian authorities to take immediate corrective action and publicly commit to fully protecting Mr. Wilkinson from retaliation.”
On October 23, 2018, The Wall Street Journal ran a feature that detailed Wilkinson’s five-year journey to bring an end to this large-scale corruption. Read the WSJ article: How One Stubborn Banker Exposed a $200 Billion Russian Money-Laundering Scandal. The next day attorneys for the Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson announced that he would testify before both the Danish and European Parliaments. Wilkinson’s testified before the Danish Parliament on November 19, 2018, and the European Parliament on November 21, 2018. His testimony before both Parliaments was limited as he is bound by Danish Banking Secrecy laws.
On November 19, 2018, Wilkinson testified before the Danish Parliament. During Mr. Wilkinson’s remarks, he expressed his dismay at Denmark’s lack of whistleblower protections which prevented him from reporting banking irregularities to law enforcement after the bank refused to act on his internal reports.
“Sometimes the alarm goes off when there is a fire in the basement, which no one sees,” Mr. Wilkinson said at the hearing before Denmark’s Parliament on Monday. “There was a big smoke alarm that started. But they tried actively to turn off the smoke alarm.”
On November 21, 2018, Wilkinson testified before the European Parliament. His PowerPoint presentation is linked here: Money Laundering in the EU Banking Sector: what is failing?
For the first time, the full contents of the nondisclosure agreement (NDA) restrictions placed on Mr. Wilkinson as part of his severance agreement were made public.
According to statements by Danske Bank executives, these types of restrictions are common. Although difficult to confirm, we believe that Mr. Wilkinson’s testimony constitutes the first time a European bank whistleblower or employee has publicly disclosed the types of contractual restrictions that hinder whistleblowing at financial institutions and often permits crimes to go undetected for years.
Mr. Wilkinson was described by Danske Bank as an exemplary employee in a letter of reference provided to him when he voluntarily left working for the bank.