GAP president Louis Clark: Whistleblowing at work now more dangerous

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The protections for corporate workers established in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which was enacted in the wake of an epidemic of massive corporate fraud, have been gutted by the decisions of judges and bureaucrats.

Louis Clark, president of the Government Accountability Project, writes:

Whistleblowing at work now more dangerous

Louis Clark
MinutemanMedia.org

Topeka (KS) Capital-Journal
September 28, 2007

In recent years, we have learned about a number of corporate horror stories. A major toy company had sold and widely distributed toys manufactured in China with lead-tainted paint. A pharmaceutical company had manufactured a vaccine for babies with a compromised quality assurance program. Government contractors employed in Iraq to provide infrastructure were instead padding their profits and cutting corners while the buildings they constructed crumbled.

In each instance, scores of employees knew about the problems but for whatever reason did nothing to end the faulty practices. It is no wonder that so many of those in the know about wrongdoing chose job security over courage.

No one should rely on public anti-corruption assurances from corporate public relations operatives until effective systems are in place so that everyday workers who spot potential disasters in the making will report them ­ putting public health and other significant concerns above corporate profits.

Sadly, this right to blow the whistle, free of retaliation and harassment, has steadily eroded over the last five years….

Clark talks about how the protections for corporate workers established in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which was enacted in the wake of an epidemic of massive corporate fraud, have been gutted by the decisions of judges and bureaucrats. He concludes:

The bottom line is now measurable.

Earlier this month, a University of Nebraska College of Law study concluded that only 3.6 percent of cases brought by whistleblowers under Sarbanes-Oxley are won by employees. That’s less than 1 in 25. Employees who report illegal activity are crucial to society’s protection when greed trumps public health and safety and encourages corrupt business practices. Strong whistleblower protections are the backbone of a transparent corporate environment that deters corruption. Whistleblowing should be risk-free, accessible to all employees and standard practice across the country.

Read the full article here

We agree. In our experience, whistleblowing is a substantially underutilized form of public service among government employees and should be given much stronger protection. Government secrecy, and keeping one’s mouth shut in the face of abuses of the public trust, in order to demonstrate loyalty or “professionalism,” is a dangerously overrated virtue in Washington.

In the area of climate change-related activity, if someone has inside information that should be brought forward as a matter of protecting the public interest, there are appropriate ways to do so without necessarily exposing oneself directly. One possible way, which a number of individuals have used, is through Climate Science Watch. 

Climate Science Watch is a program of the Government Accountability Project.

 

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