Is It Safe to Blow the Whistle at Your Company?
Blowing the whistle at work is the act of reporting your superior, or an entire company, for fraud or illegal activity of any kind. Many people have mixed feelings about whistle blowers, and it can be hard to decide if reporting these unlawful actions is actually the right course of action.
In 2003, Time Magazine counted three different whistle blowers among their people of the year and the most popular recent example is Edward Snowden, but not everyone who blows the whistle on their company gets to enjoy publicity and favorable reaction.
Anyone who has noticed illegal activity within their workplace and wants to report it should first read through this article in order to get a better understanding of the legal consequences, potential retribution and when it is ultimately the right decision.
Think Rationally and Carefully
The first thing to do if someone believes they have discovered any kind of illegal business action is to carefully dissect the information from a rational viewpoint. If someone has been involved in romantic relationships with key players or holds grudges against them from private or personal reasons, blowing the whistle may not be the smartest course of action.
Personal bias may be at play, and it is important to have all the facts before passing any kind of judgment or making any sort of public declaration.
Determine if Evidence is Present
Ideally, any whistle blowing that goes on can be backed up with evidence. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. Coming forward with information that cannot immediately be substantiated is much harder to do.
Investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are less likely overall, and the whistle blower is more likely to lose their career or face negative public reaction. If the whistle blower can gather information to prove wrongdoing without jeopardizing their career or their pensions, then doing so is wise.
Consider if Anonymity is Possible
There are two ways to report a business as a whistle blower. The report can either be public or anonymous. Those individuals who work in large corporations and know that multiple people have the information might choose to simply make an anonymous report.
However, even anonymous reports can be traced back to the whistle blower in some cases, especially if he or she was one of only a few people privy to the information in question. Some whistle blowers feel morally obligated to first resign and then make a formal reporting of crimes, which is ideal in many cases.
Anyone who cannot afford to resign should not feel obligated to do so. There are many cases of whistle blowers who kept their positions after public reports.
Understanding the SEC Whistleblower Program
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission has a specific program for whistle blowers, and it is designed to encourage employees to report things like fraud, manipulation and false financial disclosures. Anyone who is curious about the process of whistle blowing can anonymously speak to the staff at the commission to better understand the process.
Information that can be used to prove wrongdoing typically results in sanctions for a business, and whistle blowers are able to claim up to 30 percent of that money as a reward for their actions. In the year 2012 alone, more than 3,000 tips were offered to the SEC Whistle Blower Program.
There are many factors that determine when a person should become a whistle blower. With a better understanding of the consequences and benefits, individuals can make the best decision possible. You might want an attorney specializing in securities fraud that can help you if you wish to whistle blow on your company, or receive retaliation for doing so.