Whistleblower – Definition

Cite this article as:"Whistleblower – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated May 14, 2019, last accessed November 26, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/whistleblower-definition/.

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Whistleblower Definition

A whistleblower is a person that reports or draws attention to unlawful activities going on in an organization. Once illegal activities are perceived in an organization, whistleblowers relay this information to law enforcement agencies. A whistleblower can be an insider (clients, suppliers, service providers, contractors or even employees).

As a result of the sensitivity of what whistleblowers engage themselves in, there is federal legislation that protects the rights of these individuals. Examples include the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Sarbanes Oxley Act, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 give adequate protection of employees or individuals that report illegal activities that a company engages in.

A Little More on What is a Whistleblower

Due to the protection given to whistleblowers under the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act, whistleblowing has gone beyond individuals. There are some corporate organizations that render whistleblowing services. Since, illegal activities occur in diverse sectors or industries, many organizations focus on a specific aspect of whistleblowing such as safety beaches, securities exchange beaches, among others.

The presence of corporate organizations does not prevent individual whistleblowers from exposing illegal activities. In fact, many of these organizations are hinted by individuals or insiders before they take it up, they also offer rewards for useful information.

The inception of the term “whistleblowing” or “whistleblower ” can be traded back to the 19th century when the term was coined by Ralph Nader. Whistles are mostly used by referees to draw the attention of players and speculators to an offense.

This term is a combination of two words; whistle and blower and both depict the act of drawing attention to a particular thing, especially an unfair act of unlawful activity. W. Mark Felt was a notable whistleblower in the early ages. His record holds that he exposed the involvement of former President Richard Nixon’s in illegal dealings during the Watergate Scandal. There are many renowned whistleblowers at that time, such as Sherron Watkins who exposed the fraudulent accounting practices of Enron company.

If a Whistleblower provides accurate and verifiable information about illegal practices of a company, there is the tendency of manhunt either by the company or affected individuals. This is why whistleblower protection is paramount.

The provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 protect a Whistleblower from retaliation or manhunt by the company. It also give protection from demotion, termination of appointment and other reactions to whistleblowing.

Furthermore, the act protects whistleblowers from facing legal suits filed by the company. There is also protection from threats and violence.

Many organizations offer rewards for useful information they get from whistleblowers. This reward can be a percentage of the amount recovered by a regulating agency based on the information by the whistleblower. This motivates individuals or employees to report unlawful activities in their organizations.

However, the rewards are not offered for every information but for valid information that have not been reported previously. Individuals qualify for rewards based on the information provided. Whistleblower reward serves as an incentive or compensation for individuals not to relent in exposing illegal activities in a company. The reward mechanism also improve the efficiency of whistleblowing.

References for Whistleblower

Academic Research on Whistleblower

Whistleblower disclosures and management retaliation: The battle to control information about organization corruption, Rothschild, J., & Miethe, T. D. (1999). Work and occupations, 26(1), 107-128.

An economic model of whistleblower policy, Heyes, A., & Kapur, S. (2008). The Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, 25(1), 157-182.

Whistleblower narratives: The experience of choiceless choice, Alford, C. F. (2007). Social Research, 223-248.

Whistle blowing and whistle blower protection in the South African public sector, Holtzhausen, N. (2009). (Doctoral dissertation).

A review of whistleblower protections and suggestions for change, Boyle, R. D. (1990). Labor Law Journal, 41(12), 821.

Debating a whistleblower protection act for employees of the Government of Canada, Thomas, P. G. (2005). Canadian Public Administration, 48(2), 147-184.

Protecting the Corporate Whistle Blower Under Federal Anti-Retaliation Statutes, Solomon, L. D., & Garcia, T. D. (1979). J. Corp. L., 5, 275.

Confessions of a whistleblower: Lessons learned, Salter, A. C. (1998). Ethics & Behavior, 8(2), 115-124.

The psychologist as whistle blower: A case study., Simon, G. C. (1978). Professional Psychology, 9(2), 322.

Sarbanes-Oxley and Whistleblower Protections, Kleckner, P., & Jackson, C. (2004). The CPA Journal, 74(6), 14.

A Potential WhistleBlower: To Tell or Not to Tell, That Is the Question, Folks, S. R. (2000). Public Integrity, 2(1), 61-74.


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