Envision this: You have been part of a company for many years, worked hard, built a strong reputation for yourself, and developed key relationships with others when suddenly you decide to pull the trigger and report the company’s alleged dishonesty to a regulator for a nice reward that may or may not last you a lifetime. Is it worth it? Once you’ve blown the whistle, your life may never be the same.
Whistleblowing became part of the US business world’s nomenclature 10 years ago when Sherron Watkins at Enron and Cynthia Cooper at WorldCom became familiar figures in the press. Both female executives brought to light the fraudulent activities at their now defunct former employers. Based on their profiles, and the belief that females have less of an interest in maintaining the status quo than men, many incorrectly believe that most whistleblowers are women.
These days the IRS is increasing whistleblower incentives to encourage more informants to come forward. Meanwhile the SEC has dedicated an office to handling an ever-increasing stream of complaints and tips. And last week, Sean McKessy, former corporate secretary at AOL and Altria Group, was selected to lead the new SEC arm, which will reward individuals who provide the agency with information that results in successful enforcement actions.
With all this in mind, it can be seen that there’s no more ethical complexities involved in blowing the whistle, since the regulators are willing to give a generous reward to informants. Overtime, whistleblowing is only expected to increase and companies should start listening to their employees before its too late.