Whistleblowers

Are Whistleblowers Our Secret Heroes To Expose It All?

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When we see someone committing unethical acts in an organization, we get this itch to report it to the authorities. However, we get scared when we think about the consequences, especially if the person has a higher position.

Do I expose the truth? Or do I simply play along and pretend nothing ever happened? Unfortunately, such questions cloud our minds when it comes to such revelations.

However, if you selected the first option and exposed the secrets, then you are a whistleblower.

So, if you have secrets you want to expose, then I suggest giving this article a read. You will get to learn what whistleblowing is and what are the legal consequences for doing so.

Who Is A Whistleblower?

Who Is A Whistleblower

A whistleblower is a person who reveals or exposes the dark secrets of a person or a group.

Sometimes, an employee of an organization might see illegal, unethical, and fraudulent activities committed by employees or the organization.

Here, the person can decide to reveal the hidden secrets of these acts within the confines of the organization. They can also choose to go public with it and reveal it on social media, news channels, and newspapers.

However, such actions take a lot of courage and guts to do. Moreover, revealing well-kept secrets can be dangerous as it can potentially place your life in perilous situations. Therefore, whistleblowing is no easy feat. 

Surveys suggest that 83% of all whistleblowers typically report such actions internally. This means that instead of reporting to the public, they report to their supervisors or the organization’s management.

This is typically a safer way since the chances of the matter being solved are higher. However, there still exists a high chance of you losing your job. Also, there is a chance that the organization will then try to cover it all up. 

Big corporations often employ use of black hat hackers and white hat hackers for this job 

If you think that you may face danger from the organization in any form, it’s time to go public. Most of the famous whistleblowers of all time went to the media and exposed their dark secrets publicly. Moreover, they even received government protection for some time too (well, except Snowden).

Are The Actions Of A Whistleblower Morally And Legally Justified?

Whistleblower Morally And Legally Justified

When it comes to justifying the actions of a whistleblower, then this is where things get tricky and complicated. 

A commoner might think that the actions of a whistleblower are justified. This is because it reveals the secrets of organizations and their illegal acts – a noble cause indeed. 

However, if you work in an organization, then you must know that you always sign documents when you get employed. These documents explicitly state that you cannot spill out organizational matters and news to outsiders. This also includes issues about the organization that you believe are illegal.

Therefore, legally, you are unethical if you spill organizational secrets. Therefore, your actions might look ethical in the eyes of the people, but they are lawfully unethical. However, this implies as long as you are an employee of the company.

To deal with such matters, the US government has set up a committee called the Office Of The Whistleblower in the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission). 

The SEC whistleblower laws state that whistleblowers will be given protection, along with upholding their anonymity. All they have to do is whistleblow to the SEC. In addition, a whistleblower will be given monetary support and rewards if their accusations get proven in court if a trial is declared.

Famous Examples Of Whistleblowing

Some of the most famous examples of Whistleblowing that shook reporters and the public are: 

Edward Snowden Exposing The US Government (2013)

The story of Edward Snowden exposing secrets about various public surveillance programs by the US government is legendary. Snowden was a computer security consultant in the NSA (National Security Agency) of the USA.

He found out that the government has secretly been surveilling the lives of US citizens, and people of other countries. He soon contacted the media and spilled the beans to a news channel.

After the exposure, he was exiled by the US government on charges of national espionage. He now resides in Russia, which provided him with asylum. His story was later made into a film called Snowden (2018).

Jeffrey Wigand Exposing The Tobacco Industry (1996)

Jeffrey Wigand hit the headlines in 1996 when he publicly accused the American tobacco industry of adding extra nicotine to make people more addicted to cigarettes. He did so publicly on “60 Seconds” – a reality TV show.

He still continued to campaign against the industry, in spite of receiving many death threats. His efforts paid off a year later when the tobacco industry made settlements worth $368 billion. This story was later turned into a movie called The Insider (1999).

Dr. Eric Ben Artzi Exposing Deutsche Bank (2012)

Deutsche Bank is one of the largest banks in the world, dealing with clients from all over the world. However, it still has many cases of fraudulent practices going on internally.

Dr. Artzi an employee of Deutsche Bank found out that the bank has made securities violations worth billions of dollars. This happened because the bank failed to accurately value credit derivatives portfolios.

After the lid was blown open, Deutsche bank had to pay $55 million to settle all charges.

Cheryl Eckard Exposing GlaxoSmithKline (2010)

Like Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline is another famous pharmaceutical company that was also ratted out by one of its employees. Cheryl Eckard publicly exposed details about various contamination and adulteration practices of the company. 

The company was forced to pay $750 million for clearing charges. Eckard was paid $96 million for whistleblowing, one of the most significant rewards ever given to ax whistleblower by the government.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Q1. Is Whistleblower A Bad Thing?

While the act of whistleblowing might tread through the gray area of being ethical or unethical, a whistleblower typically suffers from a negative reputation after they spill the beans.

Q2. Is Whistleblowing Ethical Or Unethical?

While whistleblowers typically suffer from a bad reputation after spilling the beans, the act is more or less considered ethical. This is because it aims to reveal the truth about various illegal or unethical activities. Therefore, the good intentions of the whistleblower should make this act ethical.

Q3. What Are The Two Types Of Whistleblowing?

There are two basic types of whistleblowing:

Internal whistleblowing: This refers to the act of reporting the illegal and unethical practices of another person or an employee within members of the organization.

External Whistleblowing: Here, the whistleblower informs the public about illegal and unethical practices of a person. This happens when the acts involve the general interest of the public.

Q4. What Is The Difference Between Grievance And Whistleblowing?

Grievance simply means a problem that you are facing in the workspace. These problems typically refer to things that are causing trouble for you. However, these are typically not unethical or illegal activities. It might not directly concern the activities of a person or an organization.

On the other hand, whistleblowing refers to exposing the illegal activities of a person or an organization. The secrets are exposed either amongst the employees of the organization or publicly.

Conclusion

Being a whistleblower can be a risky term to be associated with since your life might come into danger. No big organization likes their shady operations to be exposed to the public. However, many whistleblowers have stepped out so far and exposed the truth, in spite of receiving death threats.

These people should always be considered heroes who risked their lives to inform the public – us – for our safety. While it’s sad that many such heroes like Snowden were exiled for their bravery, we should never forget them. 

Always remember – if you see something suspicious and illegal happening in your organization – always speak out before it can cause any more damage to anyone else.

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