Why Whistleblowers Are Essential

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The indictment of Martin Winterkorn, the Ex-Volkswagen C.E.O. charged with fraud over diesel emissions, as reported in this New York Times article, makes Volkswagen more vulnerable to lawsuits by shareholders who say top managers concealed risks. People internally were aware; but they didn’t come forward because they were scared into silence. Note the exposures. Not only was this covered up at the very top; this shows they doubled down on their complicity with an inadequate, incomplete and flawed internal sham investigation. 

By taking a close look at where cultural bombs have gone off, the most recent being Nike, and all of the exposures resulting from the MeToo movement, it becomes more and more evident that had people blown the whistle, many of the problems would have been avoided. More importantly the corruption misbehavior and abuse could have been avoided.

In most situations of this nature, people are afraid to come forward because when they do come forward, they get fired. Take, for example, the issue in Charlotte County, NB, as reported in an editorial in the Telegraph Journal, where a member of the Southwest Regional Service Commission was fired recently for blowing the whistle over an irregularity. That case is heading to court. 

Duke Tran was the whistleblower who came forward at Wells Fargo. He went through hell fighting the injustice he endured, including losing his job. He just won his case. This New York Times article describes the incredible turmoil he went through in order to stand up for what was right and true.

My own experience, which I discuss in detail in my book, From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire, sent me into 18 months of shear hell because of what I went through when I blew the whistle on a corrupt corporate executive. The troubling truth, as I write, is that too often established structures in society are better equipped to silence criticism than whistleblowers are equipped to expose wrongdoing. This must change!