|Wall Street Journal Reviews "The Whistleblower's Handbook"|
Wall Street Journal (December 15, 2011). If you’re among the 34% of Americans who have seen wrongdoing at their job, you may want to add this book to your Christmas wish list.
Just don’t let your boss catch you reading it.
Last week, the National Whistleblower Center announced the release of the second edition of “The Whistleblower’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself.”
The first edition came out in March, but the author felt a new version was needed after the Securities and Exchange Commission finalized rules on its new whistleblower bounty program in August.
The SEC’s program, created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform package, awards informants from a minimum 10% to a maximum 30% of monetary sanctions for reporting allegations of securities violations — if the penalty in the case is more than $1 million and the SEC determines the tip was original information that led to the enforcement action.
That could mean a huge payday, if you know how to work the system.
The new edition has, among other things, a 20-page checklist on how to receive a reward under program and advice on how to manage retaliation claims under both the Dodd-Frank Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
At $16.95 (plus shipping and handling), it seems like a good investment for a would-be whistleblower.
We spoke recently with author Stephen M. Kohn, executive director at the National Whistleblower Center, about the new edition.
Why did you feel it was important to put out a new edition after the SEC published its regulations?
These are really far-reaching regulations that will have a major impact on all publicly-traded companies and anyone who is listed in the U.S. These are major changes in how whistleblowing works in the U.S.
The rules were very broad, and we felt like we needed to insert a checklist that covers the rules from A to Z, so people can figure out whether or not they would qualify for a reward.
Some of the language in the regulations is pretty dense. I was begged to put together a handbook that non-lawyers would understand. Pretty much anyone who graduated from high school can understand this. It’s explicitly written for the non-lawyer.
Can you give me examples of what’s on the check list?
I’ll start with a basic one – Who is eligible?
What is voluntary [disclosure]? That’s a big issue. If it’s part of your official duties at work, is that voluntary?
What is original information?
What is an SEC enforcement action? To qualify there has to be an enforcement action, so what do you do to trigger that?
If you work in compliance, what triggers your eligibility for a reward?
One of the most important things is what types of misconduct qualify for rewards, and there’s a list of 50 or 60 things.
And the list goes on.
What do you make of proposed legislation in Congress that would alter the program to require whistleblowers to go to their employer first?
I think that particular bill has no chance of passing. It wouldn’t get majority support in the Senate.
It’s what I call the white collar crime warning act.
If you look out the window and see a robber stealing an old woman’s purse, theres’s no requirement for you to call his mother first and say “hey, do you know what your son is doing?” No, you call the police.
So, to give white collar crimes some sort of early warning notice, that flies in the face of basic public policy principles of democratic societies.
If the legislation were passed, you can bet we’d be on the Hill with that argument.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about blowing the whistle, what would it be?
Know your rights before you blow the whistle. Period.
That’s the reason the book was written. I’ve talked to thousands of whistleblowers who made mistakes early on that made it very difficult to put their case together.
There’s a pathway to be fully protected and qualify for a reward, but at the same time, there are pitfalls. So it’s important to understand both before you go down that road.
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