Year 2000 whistle-blowers lose a forum

Peter de Jager has reluctantly concluded that the sword of Damocles is indeed double-edged.

A prominent year 2000 consultant -- well known in Australia -- and founder of the popular Year 2000 Information Centre Web site, de Jager had established a 2000 whistle-blowers forum -- dubbed Project Damocles -- back in January. Legal concerns of his own, however, have forced de Jager to sheath his sword.

The creator of Project Damocles had intended to give customers and employees of high-tech product vendors a place to file reports about their knowledge of serious 2000 problems that were going unaddressed.

Once informed that such a report had been lodged against the company, de Jager reasoned the offenders would voluntarily clean up their acts rather than face punitive legal consequences down the road.

De Jager had hoped that Project Damocles would also prompt fuller disclosure by vendors and other companies that have been downplaying their 2000 liabilities.

However, that was before he started hearing from lawyers.

"Strange things happened after Damocles started," de Jager said in a message recently posted to his Web site. "I got lots of free advice from lawyers."

Some told de Jager they had fears he would become a target of lawsuits filed by the companies that were being accused of negligence.

Others had warned that even though de Jager had no intention of accepting "expert witness" work on 2000 suits involving Project Damocles reports, he would undoubtedly be compelled to testify by the parties involved.

"The risk to me personally of being subpoenaed in perpetuity was just not something I was going to risk," de Jager said this week.

Instead, he announced the disbanding of Project Damocles and deleted from his computer the "hundreds" of reports received at his Web site (www.year2000.com). Copies of these reports filed at his lawyer's office were also destroyed, he said.

While de Jager won't discuss specific Project Damocles reports in detail, he did say "there were a couple in there that gave me cause for concern. There was some stuff in there that should be acted upon."

Describing himself as more "frustrated" than angered by the demise of his project, de Jager said he believes government agencies should pick up where Project Damocles left off and encourage whistle-blowers to step forward.

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