Whistleblowing and the fraud that it uncovers is a hotly debated topic today. Yet its roots go back centuries.
Whistleblowing is one of the most powerful enforcing mechanisms we have and one of the most powerful tools of enforcement that the Justice Department has today.
As a guest on the McCuistion TV Program recently I was honored to be a part of the conversation on whistleblowing and the controversy surrounding it with two of today’s foremost experts. They were Marianne Jennings, JD, Professor Emeritus, Arizona State University; Author: The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse and Tom Mueller PhD, Author: Crisis of Conscience- Whistleblowing In An Age of Fraud
Although the program will not be aired until early 2020, the program may be viewed on Dropbox.
In the United States, we’ve had whistleblowing from the beginning of this country’s formation. In 1778, ten Navy military aides reported their supreme commander, the Commodore of the U.S. Navy, for dereliction of duty and abuse of British prisoners.
The Continental Congress not only did not jail them, but it also passed a law saying it was the right of all citizens of the Republic to report wrongdoing by public officials. Their legal fees were not only paid for, but they also received documents that proved wrongdoing by the Commodore.
In 1863, during the height of the Civil war, our own President Lincoln brought charges against defense contractors for robbing the Union Army blind. He helped pass the Lincoln
Law – otherwise known today as the False Claims Act – that allows individual citizens to become private attorneys general and prosecute fraud on behalf of the country’s citizens.
Yet even with its legitimate roots, whistleblowing for some has a tinge of the whistleblowing individual being a snitch or a traitor. As my fellow guests discuss, a whistleblower exposes fraud or unethical wrongdoing in an organization usually after trying to fix the situation to no avail. They put their careers in jeopardy.
One of the questions Tom Mueller has asked of whistleblowers as he asked of me in his book is, “Would you do it again?” I answered, absolutely. There is no choice. Despite my continuous warnings of fraud and the jeopardy in which it put the company, those warnings were ignored. Compensations were tied to maintaining the unethical, but profitable, wrongdoing. And no one admitted fraudulent behavior.
Would I do it again, was it worth it? The answer is yes. As I explained, whistleblowing takes its toll, but I had to report what was wrong, someone has to speak up – it’s our only hope.
Marianne and Tom discuss the complexity of what leads to whistleblowing, the profile of a whistleblower, why whistleblowers just can’t take it anymore and have to report what they see and hear in spite of the tremendous cost to themselves.
I think you’ll find the program a fascinating discussion on the psychology of whistleblowing and why it serves a unique and necessary purpose- in both government and corporate life.