It’s been a busy few weeks of scrambling to help whistleblowers find counsel and support services including resume building, social network connections and health care. One whistleblower revealed a scurrilous defrauding of government that robbed not just the tax payers but harmed children in a prominent American city that still glimmers from world fame. Another whistleblower is at the end of the rope having been financially devastated in the aftermath of revealing our food safety system is corrupt. There were one or two bright spots when 2 whistleblowers won their challenges to get their jobs back. Jobs they never should have lost. The work is daunting as the requests for assistance flood our system from every type of business and on all levels of government.
I don’t often have a chance to catch up with colleagues on LinkedIn these days. But today I made an exception after reading a story about how the Canadian system of collegial relations among good government and whistleblower advocacy groups melted down. The story can be further understood by reading this article in the Ottawa Citizen. Disappointing to see another go along to get along situation from our neighbors to the north. Oh Canada! I had high hopes for you!
Meanwhile back on LinkedIn…I was astonished to see that whistleblower work has created an entire boom of business. There are so many companies and professionals now peddling whistleblower programs, monitoring, ethics training, compliance and good governance, my eyes popped wide open. And then I closed my eyes for a moment remembering that one year ago, I was challenged that no one really cared about ethical conduct in business and government. No one liked whistleblowers. Seems the latter part is true but my oh my how an industry has sprung up to talk about whistleblowing and cash in on the latest craze.
What I see is a sea of followers and an ocean of activists that profess to have the latest and greatest way to protect a corporation from falling into the legal abyss of whistleblower retaliation. Many trainings, conferences, seminars, webinars and social media ways to keep you up to date. So much money is now going into ways to bullet proof a company from violating Dodd-Frank, False Claims Act, Foreign Corruption Practices Act and State laws, you’d be hard pressed to know which one to attend. The named speakers range from ex-SEC high ranking officials to ethics pros to corporate execs and politicos. What is missing from every program are actual whistleblowers. Shocker!
I’m a little taken aback that so many have so much to say about a topic they know almost nothing about. Although I did not get a chance to review hundreds of courses available and clubs to join in time for this article, I counted zero actual whistleblowers speaking at any convention or training seminar. Zero with a OMG!
The costs to learn how to beef up your corporate compliance and whistleblower protections were extremely high with some companies dominating the field of training by offering tantalizing places to play like Sao Paulo or Brussels. Nice work if you can get it or get someone else to pay for it. Especially if shareholders or tax payers foot the bill to teach you basic golden rules about humanity; treat others as you want to be treated. You don’t need a training course in compliance to know that bribes are illegal and shifting money from one column to another is bound to show up when an investigator comes calling.
What did I find alarming about this all? The fact that not one company had a single whistleblower speaking at these training sessions nor did they seem to want to hear from, let alone work with actual whistleblowers or learn what it cost to speak truth to power. Power usually being the government. No one wants to hear that a whistleblower lost their job, their home, their family, their health, their freedom. The whistleblowers who have won their cases and/or collected a bounty for disclosing the truth, seldom are heard from again. Usually because they are don’t want to relive the experience. But some do want to talk and teach. They should be considered the experts.
My suggestion on one message LindedIn Board was pretty simple. I hope it will give some pause to think. My post script is this. Come on people, you don’t hire mechanics to manage your money. If you want to learn how not to retaliate against a whistleblower, hire one or re-hire one you wrongfully fired. You’ll learn more about what not to do and what to do so quickly, you can spend the profits of less litigation on employee bonuses because your company will be cutting edge in the field of business ethics. A valuable commodity in the post financial meltdown world today. Food for thought…
“The single biggest obstacle to protecting whistleblowers is the club attitude within government and business organizations that tout free speech but excommunicate anyone who dissents from the go along to get along game plan.
An organization will show it does not welcome change or whistleblowing if they oust a person who dares to disagree with an agenda that is profit driven without concern for how those profits are made. Those at the top responsible for picking and choosing who is welcome at the table could learn a lot from actual whistleblowers.
This constant repeating that whistleblowers are being harmed without any meaningful discussions with real whistleblowers is little more than flag waving over fallen bodies. You don’t have better corporate compliance simply by attending seminars and listening to speeches. Corporations and government evolve when they seek wisdom from those they harmed on what to do and what not to do.
Dare to be Different-Hire a Whistleblower!”