I was intrigued by an article in the Guardian that was titled “How do you make millions by doing good? Become a whistleblower” which went on to describe how US agencies are using financial incentives to encourage whistleblowers.

It turns out that it can be quite a rewarding occupation with Cheryl Eckard taking a $96m (£61m) share of a $750m criminal and civil settlement between US regulators and a British pharmaceuticals group.

Since 2010 when new regulations were introduced in the US corporate whistleblowers may receive between 10% and 30% of any money collected due to information provided. And it is lucrative for both sides of the deal with the Guardian reporting that:

“The number of qui tam (whistleblower) suits filed in fiscal year 2014 exceeded 700 for the second year in a row,” according to a DoJ press release. “Recoveries in qui tam cases during fiscal year 2014 totaled nearly $3bn, with whistleblowers receiving $435m.”

How much of this money actually ended up in the hands of the whistleblowers themselves though is not known, however, as along with the rise of whistleblowing has been the growth in lawyers that only work on such cases.

The question that springs to mind is should employees have to be financially incentivised to come forward with information about serious issues at work? It would surely be far better to ensure adequate protection for those that do come forward ensuring that they are not stigmatised. Only once we have this comfort factor in place should we consider payments.

Doing so might prevent cases such as that of David Owen, a senior civil servant who spoke out about colleagues trying to secretly kill off a proposal by David Gauke, a Treasury minister. He was forced to quit and even after a tribunal found that the Treasury should find Owen another job they didn’t do so. Actions like this will only discourage whistleblowers.

What do you think? Should we be incentivising whistleblowers?

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