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Mary Inman talks about whistleblowers as forward indicators of risk for their employers on “What Does It Profit?” podcast

Posted  December 4, 2020

On November 11, 2020, Dr. Dawn Carpenter and Constantine Cannon partner Mary Inman discussed what happens when employees’ serious concerns go unheeded by company management on the What Does It Profit podcast.

The podcast kicked off with Mary discussing whistleblowers as a valuable resource for companies’ management, as well as the challenges whistleblowers and companies face when wrongdoings are reported. Mary emphasised that whistleblowers are courageous individuals who risk their personal health and safety to expose wrongdoings for the greater public good. She noted that more than half of the whistleblowers she represents do not think of themselves as whistleblowers – they are simply doing their jobs. It is only after they have raised their concerns and they are not warmly received (i.e., the messenger is shot for bringing bad news) that these individuals come to view themselves as whistleblowers. Mary and Dawn also discussed the profile of a typical whistleblower. Mary said a typical whistleblower falls into two categories. The good samaritan whistleblowers motivated by righteousness who cannot tolerate any wrongdoing and feel they must expose it. The second category consists of more pragmatic individuals who blow the whistle defensively, out of the concern that, if they are not the first ones to do so, someone else will and they could be exposed.

Mary then turned to discuss the intricacies of the Theranos whistleblower and Constantine Cannon’s client, Tyler Shultz, who blew the whistle on the blood-testing start-up and exposed a multi-billion dollar scam orchestrated by its founder – Elisabeth Holmes. Tyler revealed that the company was using faulty technology to run its blood tests and communicated test results to patients that were fundamentally incorrect and jeopardizing patient safety. The company started small, with only a handful of employees, and ultimately grew to 800 employees at its peak. As noted by Mary, out of those 800 employees, practically everyone knew that there was an issue with the technology and yet they allowed incorrect test results to be given to patients. Working in the lab, Tyler tried raising his concerns with Elisabeth Holmes and members of the Theranos board only to see his allegations squashed. After his unsuccessful attempt, Tyler started doubting himself but luckily found solidarity with his colleague Erika Cheung, another whistleblower at Theranos, which helped propel him to come forward. As highlighted by Mary, whistleblowing is often a very isolating experience. Having the support of another whistleblower ultimately helped Tyler work up the courage to notify regulators and ultimately share his story with the Wall Street Journal. As a result of Tyler’s disclosure, the SEC and DOJ brought charges against Elisabeth Holmes and Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the CEO of Theranos.

Although many whistleblowers suffer from retaliation and industry blacklisting after exposing their employer’s wrongdoing, Tyler was able to successfully weather the storm and has gone on to create his own testing company, Flux Biosciences. Together with his colleague Erika, Tyler helped create a non-profit, Ethics in Entrepreneurship, which seeks to encourage companies to incorporate good corporate governance at the start-up phase so ethics and compliance are part of the company’s DNA from inception.

Mary concluded that whistleblowers should be seen as assets, not liabilities, for companies. This is because whistleblowers are forward indicators of risk, alerting companies to problems early on so the company can remediate and correct course before the problem becomes impossible to handle; organizations need to celebrate whistleblowers for their strength in having the courage and fortitude to tell their employers the hard truths, and not just what they want to hear.


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