United States corporations have grown more powerful in the past half-century, and as such, corporate whistleblowing has become more common. Around $7 Billion is lost to global corporate fraud each year, and 40% of those fraud schemes are unearthed through tips, the bulk of which come from employees (Association of Certified Fraud Examiners).
Lately, there have been a surge of whistleblower accounts in multiple industries across the board. Whistleblowers in police departments have been coming forward about wrongful law enforcement practices and a recent change in home healthcare laws have seen many home health professionals speaking out against abuse and neglect within their own companies. More than 3,000 complaints have been filed with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the midst of the pandemic alone.
Just this past spring, Thomas le Bonniec, the former Apple contractor who helped blow the whistle on the company’s policy of listening to users’ Siri recordings has sent a letter announcing his decision to go public with information. The letter was sent to all European data protection regulators and stated, “It is worrying that Apple (and undoubtedly not just Apple) keeps ignoring and violating fundamental rights and continues their massive collection of data.” (The Guardian, May 2020)
Whistleblowing has a long-standing tradition in American and World histories. In America, it began with Benjamin Franklin who in 1772 passed secret British documents along to Samuel Adams. Although there are protections in place for whistleblowers in America, a lot of workers who see fraud and corruption in their companies are reticent to report it because of fear of retaliation or the stigma of whistleblowers perpetuated by corporations.
Project On Government Oversight (POGO) led an investigation into the Department of Veterans Affairs and found that the office dedicated to increasing accountability and protecting whistleblowers appear to have retaliated against several employees who raised concerns about the office’s mismanagement.
POGO spoke with nearly 20 current and former employees of the approximately 80-person office within the department responsible for caring for veterans, reviewed emails and documents, and found examples of apparent retaliation that include limiting job responsibilities, moving people to lower-level positions, and termination (POGO.org March, 2020).
It is important to know your rights before becoming a whistleblower. Thankfully, there are several government agencies that have websites designed to educate and help you through this process. Also, having solid, documented evidence of wrongdoing is highly encouraged to help validate your case and protect you against retaliation. Hiring a knowledgeable Private Investigator and legal team can also help mitigate possible fall-out in your professional and personal life.
Having a third party look through your corporate handbook and document evidence of wrongdoing is a tool not worth forgoing in these situations. As well, having a dedicated legal team be able to advise you on proper steps (for example, how to know if you should make a formal complaint internally first or to go collect and go public with your information) is vitally important.
It can be daunting to go up against a company and to put your reputation and profession on the line, but the cause and rights of the whistleblower has been upheld time and time again in court. The public relies on good people to call out the wrongs of their institutions and employers to keep society fair and capitalism running smoothly.
If you have any questions regarding becoming a whistleblower, you can read more Here.
For more information on how to submit a tip, protections of whistleblowers, and whistleblowers and retaliation, check out these links: