Recommendations on Whistleblower Protection Policies

  • Research Methodology

Data used in this study is sourced from a review of the literature. The researcher collated secondary information from relevant books, journals, legislations and case law. This implies that comparative data analysis will be theoretical and qualitative in nature to enable thorough analysis of the effectiveness of protection afforded to US and UK whistle-blowers in terms of governmental legislations, employers’ commitment to providing support for whistle-blowers by developing internal reporting and effective investigation systems as well as guaranteeing protection to those reporting.

5. Limitations of the Study

This study may have some limitations as is common with every academic inquiry. For example, access to quality data from government agencies and public/private institutions might be limited or totally inaccessible.   

Secondly, there is no guarantee that letters soliciting contributions from individuals in the UK and US would be returned with acceptance. This implies that the available sample population, even if it covers the geographical scope, may not be a truly random sampling.  

More importantly, the dearth of previous research studies on the topic presents implies little or no theoretical foundations for the stated research questions. This challenge requires the development of a new research typology, which allows identification of new gaps in the existing study. Outcomes from the academic inquiry will, however, provide basis for further development in the area of study.

  • Conclusion

Whistleblowing is emerging as an important and high-profile yardstick for the effectiveness of COVID-19 response by governments and public/private institutions. Blowing the whistle isn’t just an ethical thing to do but a responsibility for everyone[1].

Snowden, the computer security consultant who worked with CIA and National Security Agency, faced retaliatory actions for leaking classified data to The Washington Post, New York Times and UK’s Guardian after fleeing to Hong Kong. The former Dell employee claimed his efforts report ethical concerns internally was frustrated, forcing him to contact external institutions. He was charged with theft (of government property) and violation of the 1917 Espionage Act[2]. This example indicates that governments and stakeholders can uphold accountability by strengthening whistleblower protection[3].

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Chinese government made several attempts to suppress the truth about COVID-19 thereby exposing the world economies to an avoidable pandemic.

  • Recommendation

The new Supreme Court Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) ruling, which offers protection for whistleblowers, has huge implications for private and public institutions. So, employers/companies need to understand the whistleblower compliance guidelines and retain legal advice on the best approach to handling fallout with whistleblowers: This will ensure protection against potential Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower claims. To achieve this purpose, employers/companies should:

  • Increase expenditure on research and development (R&D) particularly in learning unfamiliar security laws or hiring a competent legal advisor.
  • Apply caution and reason when dealing with first-time reporters of unethical practices. Instead of firing or retaliating against potential whistleblowers, the company/employer should support them and provide the necessary assistance that will enable disgruntled workers to file their complaint.

On the part of whistleblower policies, lawmakers should enact laws that:

  • Offer anonymity to whistleblowers to the extent possible.
  • Encourage whistleblowers to speak up with discretion but never discouraging them from reporting wrongdoing.
  • Ensure that evidence relating to suspected fraud, corruption or mismanagement is preserved.
  • Institutionalise procedures for carrying out internal investigations into suspected fraud.

Lastly, employers/companies will be legally obliged to support whistleblowing activities by understanding that a part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act entitles employees to huge financial compensations, including reinstatement, back pay and other benefits (such as litigation costs and attorney fees) if they file and win lawsuits for retaliation.

However, SOX claim against employers/companies often succeed if:

  • The employee is involved in protected activity when the retaliatory action occurred. Protected activity refers to jobs protected under whistleblower laws
  • The employer took adverse employment action against the employee, and
  • The adverse employment action was necessitated, at least in part, by the protected activity.

To empower whistleblowers, a collaborative approach by stakeholders is required to clarify procedures for reporting wrongdoing and workplace retaliation as well as effectively enforce Whistleblower Directives.

Secondly, whistleblowing standards/principles should be adapted to each country’s political, social and cultural contexts, including their existing legislative frameworks.

[1] STOLOWY H., GENDRON Y., MOLL J., PAUGAM L., (2018), Building the Legitimacy of Whistleblowers: A Multi‐Case Discourse Analysis, in Contemporary Account Research (2019), Vol. 3(1), pp. 7-49.

[2] Espionage Act (1917)

[3] McDaid E, Boedker C and Free C “Close encounters and the illusion of accountability in the sharing economy” 2019 Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal (32) (5) 1437-1466.