When corporate executives, government employees, or simple truck drivers decide to report regulatory violations or illegal activity, they assume serious risks of loss of livelihood, alienation of friends and even physical safety. The significant financial award given to whistleblowers helps to soften the blow of a likely job loss. However, what rewards are there to incentivize whistleblowers that challenge the government or dismantle an international corporation?
One major consequence of whistleblowing is that it is highly unlikely that you will return to the same career you had before you blew the whistle. Sherron Watkins was Vice-President for Corporate Development at Enron when she blew the whistle on the creative and fraudulent accounting activity of the energy giant. When the dust finally settled, Watkins soon realized that she had no future in corporate America. Since Enron’s bankruptcy, Watkins has made a career on the lecture circuit and as an executive coach.
Thomas Drake was a senior executive of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and a decorated United States Air Force and United States Navy veteran. He blew the whistle on excessive government spending in a NSA intelligence program. After facing a charge that he violated the Espionage Act, Drake plead guilty to a misdemeanor. Drake is now working at an Apple Store in a Washington D.C. suburb.
Karen Silkwood, who blew the whistle on the Kerr-McGee nuclear power plant was killed in a suspicious car accident while on the way to deliver evidence regarding the health and safety of the nuclear plant employees to the New York Times.
Most whistleblowing provisions in federal statutes provide for financial awards for the whistleblower. Depending on the size of the award, a whistleblower might not feel the financial pressure to restart his or her career. For example, Bradley Birkenfeld received a $104 million award for blowing the whistle on UBS and Cheryl Eckard took home at least $96 million for revealing GlaxoSmithKline’s violations.
The best way to prepare for life after whistleblowing is to make the most of the whistleblowing. Even if you do not receive an award the size of Birkenfeld or Eckard, a whistleblower award of 15 percent of the fine may enable a comfortable life for you. To maximize your whistleblowing, consult with a Texas whistleblower attorney.