Whistleblowers are a tough issue to deal with in terms of compliance. On one hand, they usually have to break a lot of corporate policies to blow the whistle. On the other hand, they are a witness to criminal or immoral activity in the workplace. Ideally, whistle blowing is not necessary. Ideals are not the reality.
Generally, corporations are good business entities that do not break the law or harm others. Society benefits by having legal entities that can continue a business even when the founders are no longer willing or able to run it.
For the whistleblower, a wrong must be performed to expose another wrong. Regardless of corporate policy, sharing the secrets of the corporation is legal and immoral. So, whistleblowers need compelling reasons to cross that good-bad line. Obviously, letting one’s superiors and the corporation’s compliance department is important. But if nothing is being changed, then the whistleblower is compelled to cross the good-bad line. Who to contact next is difficult to figure out. Some industries or activities do not have regulators. In such a situation, the default government entity to contact is the Federal Bureau of Investigations, FBI. The FBI may advise the whistleblower on what to do next. The FBI may even advise the whistleblower that the suspect activities related to them are not crimes. But the FBI may suspect the whistleblower is/was somehow involved and wants to get out of a bad situation in the whistleblower’s own interest. In the last situation, the FBI has had a reputation of protecting bad actors who report bad behavior if they own up to their bad behavior when reporting large crimes. Whistleblowers may still be tried for their crimes, but might get reduced sentences, vacated sentences, immunity, or delayed prosecution agreements, DPA. DPA’s are generally reserved for financial institutions, though, not individuals. And also DPA’s are effectively a pass on conviction. There maybe a hefty fine associated with it but it still means a clean criminal record, which is of great value in many part of the developed world.
Whistleblowers really need to think these things through. Speaking with a knowledgeable and trusted attorney would be advisable before crossing corporate policy. Should one doesn’t know of an attorney through his/her network, then reading the Wall Street Journal to see who have protected whistleblowers in the past are also a good way to find them.
One bit of business: I would like to interview compliance practitioners in financial services. If you think you have something worth sharing, I would like to speak with you.
About the Author: Marcus Maltempo is a compliance professional with more than a decade of experience helping banks, law firms and clients manage investigations and regulatory responses.