A prominent whistleblower who brought national attention to student loan fraud will speak at SUNY Cortland Tuesday, March 25, as part of a national college tour focused on government accountability.
Jon Oberg, a former Department of Education researcher who in 2003 discovered the illegal payment of federal tax dollars to student loan lenders, speaks at 4:30 p.m. in the Park Center Hall of Fame Room. He will be joined by Louis Clark, an expert on whistleblowing and the president of the Government Accountability Project (GAP).
Their moderated presentation is free and open to the public. It also is part of the GAP’s American Whistleblower Tour, which aims to educate the public about the importance of holding governments accountable in promoting social change.
“These two men each offer us examples of how one person can, in fact, make a difference,” said Richard Kendrick, the director of SUNY Cortland’s Institute for Civic Engagement (ICE) and a professor of sociology/anthropology. “Their stories are very inspirational in describing the courage it takes to speak out in the face of adversity.
“Both are outstanding examples of civic engagement through advocacy, and I am very excited to have them on our campus.”
In 2003, after Oberg discovered student lending companies were improperly collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in federal subsidies, Department of Education officials instructed him not to investigate further. He researched on his own time and reported the payments to Congress, which ended them in 2004 and saved billions of dollars in the process.
Oberg sued the payment recipients under the False Claims Act in 2007 and three years later the Department of Justice settled with four of the companies for more than $57 million.
Clark serves as both president and corporate and financial accountability director of the GAP, the nation’s leading advocate and protector for whistleblowers. Those whistleblowers include former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Clark acts as the major spokesperson for the group, often meeting with legal representatives and international delegations to interpret the laws that protect employees who speak up about problems, and he also oversees numerous cases involving financial fraud.
“We are excited to show SUNY Cortland students — the future leaders of tomorrow — how one person can make a real difference through standing up for the truth,” Clark said.
Founded in 1977 and based in Washington, D.C., the GAP is a non-partisan public interest group. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reform, the GAP seeks to protect public interests by promoting government and corporate accountability. The organization also conducts an accredited legal clinic for law students.
Sponsors for the SUNY Cortland talk include the ICE, the Campus Artist and Lecture Series, the sociology/anthropology department and the GAP.
For more information, contact Kendrick at 607-753-2481.