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Constantine Cannon partner Mary Inman and Nick Gallo, Co-CEO of ComplianceLine, discuss whistleblowing in the US and around the globe

Posted  November 6, 2020

On October 26, 2020, international whistleblower lawyer, Mary Inman, joined Nick Gallo, CEO of ComplianceLine, on a podcast “The Ethics Experts,” which is part of the Compliance Podcast Network.

Discussions commenced with Mary explaining the various US whistleblower reward programs (CFTCSECIRS, and the False Claims Act). She then described the vital role whistleblower lawyers play in guiding individuals from the beginning of the process, when they struggle whether to come forward, all the way to putting a case together and supporting them afterwards. Mary also emphasized that managing whistleblowers’ expectations is key in the process, and went through the externalities of blowing the whistle. As explained by Mary, one of the many risks for whistleblowers is that they face life-long loss of career due to industry blackballing. Most whistleblowers effectively become barred from finding re-employment within their profession. Whistleblowers also often bear a personal cost due to the often severe emotional and psychological health toll of whistleblowing. When talking to clients, Mary stressed that conversations will frequently revolve around how equipped one is to deal with the various pressures and possible negative outcomes of whistleblowing, and she seeks to engage the prospective whistleblowers’ family members in the decision making process since the decision whether to speak up may affect those closest to the whistleblower.

Nick then discussed whether there is any commonality around what today’s whistleblowers value and what they react to. He explained that there are generational factors that curtail whistleblowing in one case but facilitate signaling in another case which involves an individual with a different worldview. Mary stated that the personal cost of whistleblowing is typically much higher for young employees than for older employees who are about to retire. In Mary’s view, millennials are more fearless and find it easier to reinvent themselves. Millennials are therefore more likely to blow the whistle because, unlike baby boomers, they are used to constant career changes or going about without having a job for a while. Mary recounted the story of her client Tyler Schultz, a millennial and the Theranos whistleblower, who after blowing the whistle on the blood-testing multibillion dollar start-up, went on to have a successful career and become the CEO of his own biotech company.

Mary and Nick also discussed how Constantine Cannon’s whistleblower representation practice  has changed over the years, as the expansion of whistleblower reward programs has occurred internationally and within the U.S. itself. Mary explained that Constantine Cannon officially launched its international whistleblower practice in its London office in 2017 in recognition that so much whistleblowing, particularly under the SEC whistleblower program, is undertaken by foreign nationals and in particular British nationals. For example, in one of its annual reports to Congress, the SEC published information that around 10-15% of whistleblower tips come from the UK. The rise in international whistleblowers is a recognition that companies are multinational and that there is often a nexus to the US which enables foreign nationals to report irregularities to US agencies like the IRS, SEC, CFTC and DOT, all of which have whistleblower reward programs and accept tips from whistleblowers across the globe.

Outside of the US, Mary explained that there are many other international whistleblower reward programs out there – for example, the OSC whistleblower program in Canada, which has paid out around $8 million in rewards to whistleblowers since its inception in 2016. There is also an expansion of whistleblower reward programs further afield in places like Africa and South Korea.

The speakers also discussed the differences between Great Britain and the US in the approach to whistleblowing. Mary explained that in the UK there are significant cultural impediments that make people reluctant about paying whistleblowers, because in the British culture there appears to be a strongly-held notion that people should report wrongdoing simply because it is “the right to do” and it is somehow unseemly to be paid. Such a stance, however, ignores the reality of whistleblowing and the heavy price that whistleblowers pay for coming forward. Mary stated that after Constantine Cannon started working with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Whistleblowing (APPG) in the UK and introduced them to members of the CFTC’s whistleblower office, several British MPs recognized that whistleblowers, speaking up in the public interest, should not be bearing all the cost and that rewards operate as a kind of insurance against the prospect of lifelong unemployment. APPG is now effectively pushing for whistleblower compensation to be implemented in the UK. The world is therefore seeing more recognition and appreciation for whistleblowers, especially in times of the ongoing COVID crisis, when whistleblowers act as the eyes and ears of governments fighting COVID fraud and misappropriation of COVID government relief funds, which have been released with very little oversight.

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Tagged in: CC Lawyers, Importance of Whistleblowers, International Whistleblowers, Whistleblower Eligibility,


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