World Intellectual Property Organization Scandal Finishes Investigation

Deputy Director General Francis Gurry of the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) has been investigated for ordering illegal break-ins of the offices of his own staffers, whom he suspected had written anonymous letters against him.  The long and secretive investigation has finished, but whether or not the report will be public is yet to be known.

According to Miranda Brown, Special Advisor to Gurry, Moncef Kateb, the President of the Staff Union, and James Pooley, the Deputy Director General, Gurry had:

  • Ordered break-ins at his staff’s offices to collect DNA that might help identify suspects he believed had written letters critical of him to WIPO Member States’ delegations;
  • Secretly authorized WIPO shipments of sophisticated U.S.-made computers and servers to North Korea and Iran, both under UN and US sanctions; Authorized the opening of new patent offices for WIPO in Russia and China;
  • Failed to enforce adequate oversight practices; and
  • Interfered in a procurement process to benefit an acquaintance.

Among its regulations, WIPO features a policy that prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers, however, the policy left discretion for the conclusions about allegations of retaliation to the Director General, making him both the accused and the judge.

Consequently, one WIPO whistleblower experienced such harassment that she resigned, another was marginalized until his term expired, and the third was simply sacked. Not one of the three remains employed at WIPO, while Gurry was re-elected as WIPO Director General in 2014.

In 2015, the UN Secretariat in New York took over the investigation of Gurry, and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), now under new leadership, finalized its report about the incidents alleged, and delivered it to the Chair of the WIPO General Assembly.

There were “adverse findings.” However, so far, no one is willing to divulge the conclusions of the OIOS report.  Not even one of the whistleblowers – who, under the regulations, is entitled to at least a summary and conclusions – has been able to extract it from WIPO.

Ideally, the WIPO Chair will release the report about the actions of Francis Gurry to the WIPO Member States and take steps required to compensate the whistleblowers who risked their careers to bring their allegations to the governing bodies.