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Employers Must Protect Whistleblowers: Current Workplace Attitudes Mean Nearly 50% Fear Consequences

Internal fraud has become a growing problem in the UK, but not enough people are coming forward to report suspects. Research from accounts payable provider, Medius has revealed that the primary reason for this is the legal system doesn’t adequately protect whistleblowers. 

Of the 504 financial professionals surveyed by Medius, 47 per cent said there wasn’t enough protection for whistleblowers. Additionally, 46 per cent feared the accused would turn on the whistleblower, and recriminate the whistleblower.

Jim Lucier, CEO at Medius
Jim Lucier, CEO at Medius

“White collar crime is on the rise and no organisation is safe. Employees are the last line of defense against fraud but confidence to report suspicious activity is declining. AI anomaly detection technology can provide employees with the evidence and assurances they need to be more forthcoming. Building a culture where employees feel comfortable to report their suspicions could save organizations millions in the long-rum,” said Jim Lucier, CEO at Medius.

Building such a culture is an absolute necessity as the current attitude towards whistleblowers in the workplace is dissuading people from going to the authorities. On a day-to-day basis, colleagues can isolate whistleblowers and even halt their career progression.

For instance:

  • professionals have witnessed whistleblowers shunned by colleagues (43 per cent)
  • kept out of decision-making (43 per cent)
  • being moved to different teams (33 per cent)
  • called derogatory names both to their face and behind their backs (32 per cent)

Only eight per cent of respondents said they hadn’t witnessed negative repercussions for whistleblowers at work.

Shared experiences
Sherron Watkins, former VP of Enron
Sherron Watkins, former VP of Enron

Sherron Watkins, former VP of Enron and whistleblower explained why people must be firm and brave to see a strong response from the authorities: “When someone is troubled by corporate wrongdoing and they attempt to sound the alarm, the pathway is uncharted, things happen organically. Normal rational people speak about their concerns with their closest friends and work colleagues, who often suggest staying safe saying ‘keep your head down, if you must report, go soft, nothing black and white’.

“Yet black and white evidence is what is needed to get the attention of those in power, either internally or with media or outside watchdog groups to prevent or stop fraudulent activity.”

Jennifer Griffith
Jennifer Griffith

Jennifer Griffith, star of The Big Conn who exposed a $500million fraud scheme highlights the important role employers must play in protecting their employees: “Choosing to blow the whistle involves more than just the desire to right a wrong. It’s about protecting their employers from fraud. However, it’s more often than not seen as causing trouble for the employer, or as a self-serving action to get a financial reward.

“No one who chooses to blow the whistle expects to have their reputation attacked, their credibility impugned or to lose their job. The cost of ignoring a whistleblowers complaints are far greater than acknowledging that a problem exists and taking steps to fix it. It’s been 19 years since I blew the whistle and the problems that existed then with the Social Security Administration still exist today. We must do more to protect whistleblowers.”

Author

  • Francis is a journalist and our lead LatAm correspondent, with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

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