A whistleblower is someone who provides information about a private or public organization’s illegal, unethical, or unsafe practices. They report fraud, abuse, or corruption. They can come in the form of an employee within a large organization that has information not available to the public about the business’ actions or a chief officer that disagrees and is unable to force change through other channels.
Does whistleblowing work?
There are many situations where this process works. As reported by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, whistleblower cases are responsible for bringing attention to issues that result in 40% of all fraud cases.
Why would those who have this important information come forward?
There is some concern about the potential for risk if one comes forward with this type of information. The three main reasons these brave individuals move forward with their cases in spite of the potential for risk include:
- Accountability. It is important to hold those who violate rules and regulations accountable for their wrongdoing. Whistleblowing provides those who may have inside information with the ability to start this process.
- Deter future wrongdoing. This is where we see whistleblowing truly leading to change. When corporate wrongdoers are held accountable, when media reports highlight massive financial penalties, other corporations are deterred from making the same poor choices.
- Protection. The law provides protection for those who move forward with a whistleblowing, or qui tam, case. The government wants individuals to feel confident stepping forward with information about wrongdoing. As such, protections to help remove the risk that can come with standing up and fighting back alluded to above can include confidentiality and employment protections to prevent termination or negative workplace treatment.
Whistleblowing can come with a financial cost including the potential for attorney or court fees. Lawmakers recognized this and provided financial incentive to help those who chose to stand up for what is right. If the claim that the whistleblower helps to file moves forward and is successful, that whistleblower can get a portion of the award.