Have a Claim?

Click here for a confidential contact or call:


Famous Whistleblowers Trying to Turn Derogatory Labels into Honorary Badges

Posted  May 24, 2024

Some troubling but perhaps unsurprising news in the world of corporate whistleblowing.  

Recent data from Medius, a fraud detection software company, revealed that over half of financial professionals in the UK and US have spotted or suspected fraud in their workplaces, yet a staggering 81% remain silent because of fear of retaliation. This troubling statistic shows a significant issue within the industry, one that whistleblowers like Sherron Watkins, Sarah Carver, and Jennifer Griffith are determined to address. 

Sherron Watkins, a name synonymous with corporate whistleblowing, rose to prominence during the Enron scandal. As Vice President of Enron Corporation, Watkins alerted the CEO to accounting irregularities that threatened to implode the organization. Her brave actions earned her national acclaim and a spot as one of TIME magazine’s Persons of the Year in 2002, yet she was also branded as a “snitch.” 

Similarly, Sarah Carver and Jennifer Griffith, stars of Apple TV’s 2022 documentary “The Big Conn,” exposed a $550 million fraud scheme while employed at the Social Security Administration. Despite their efforts to bring integrity to their organization, they faced severe retaliation and were ultimately forced from their jobs. Carver and Griffith, who were labeled as “rats” and “traitors,” now join Watkins in reclaiming these derogatory terms, transforming them into badges of honor rather than marks of shame. 

Watkins reflects on the organic nature of raising concerns, often starting with close confidants who advise caution. Griffith emphasizes that the decision to blow the whistle is driven by a desire to protect employers from fraud, not to cause trouble. Carver represents the resilience required to persist in the face of retaliatory measures, advocating for immediate acknowledgment and rectification of disclosed fraud. 

The data from Medius powerfully demonstrates the serious challenges whistleblowers like Watkins, Griffith, and Carver face. Among financial professionals surveyed, 59% have seen whistleblowers excluded from critical decisions, 33% have witnessed them being moved to different teams, and 32% have heard derogatory terms used against them. The fear of such repercussions is a significant deterrent, with 45% of respondents citing the risk of retaliation or recrimination as the primary reason for staying silent when they otherwise might speak up. 

To truly empower whistleblowers to speak up and make them feel safe to do so, a mass-cultural shift will be required. Legal protections need to be strengthened, and organizations must cultivate an environment where employees feel safe when reporting fraud. 

What too many companies still fail to appreciate is that scaring away would-be whistleblowers is detrimental to the company engaged in the wrongdoing; that giving whistleblowers a warm embrace is in everyone’s best interest. Jim Lucier, CEO of Medius, supports this belief and the importance of a supportive environment for reporting suspicious activities. He advocates for AI-driven anomaly detection technology, which can provide the necessary evidence to encourage and support whistleblowers coming forward, potentially saving organizations millions in the long run. 

Georgina Hallford-Hall, CEO of Whistleblowers UK, calls for the establishment of an Independent Office of Whistleblowers in the UK to set standards and protect individuals from discrimination. This move could help mitigate the stigma and fear associated with whistleblowing, making it a more viable option for those who witness wrongdoing. 

While the financial sector grapples with the persistent issue of internal fraud, the experiences of Watkins, Carver, and Griffith are just one example of the personal and professional toll that whistleblowing can take. Millions of whistleblowers who do not receive the same kind of publicity do not feel as protected or heard. Their personal stories are evidence for a critical truth: the cost of ignoring whistleblowers is far greater than the challenges of addressing their concerns. By reclaiming derogatory labels and advocating for stronger protections, these courageous individuals pave the way for a future where integrity and transparency are valued over silence and fear. 

If you have information relating to potential fraud or any other financial and investment fraud, or any other type of fraud or misconduct, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will connect you with an experienced member of our whistleblower team for a free and confidential consultation.