Whistling Down the Wind: The Pitfalls and Possibilities of the Dodd-Frank Whistleblowing Program

“The program is off to a great start,” he says, speaking of the whistleblower provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. “Compare it to other programs, like the IRS Whistleblower program, took a long time to get off the ground. In the very short time of its existence, the SEC whistleblower program issued an award in record time.”

According to a survey by the Ethics Resource Center, 24 percent of people reporting internally feel that they have faced retaliation. This, says Thomas, shows a disconnect between businesses that claim to promote ethics but fail to do so in practice. “If 24 percent perceive that they are being retaliated against, words are not consistent with actions. There is then a deterrent impact on people coming forward in the future. They talk to friends and it gets to everyone. If people say they faced consequences, all of a sudden, word on the street is not to report internally…Think about how you communicate with whistleblowers. Conveying that the organization appreciates someone coming forward and takes the matter seriously, whether it is real or not.”

Thomas notes that the chief of the whistleblower office at the SEC is actively looking for cases that involve corporate retaliation against a whistleblower. “Can you imagine being the first company to get hit with that?” he asks. “You don’t want to be in that situation. It undermines that culture of integrity, so responsible organizations should get their arms around these issues.”

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