Carey Wedler (TheAntiMedia)
September 23, 2014
According to the New York Times, an anonymous whistleblower who tipped off the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to a corporate fraud scheme was awarded between $30 and $35 million dollars,the biggest ever for the agency (but not as big as a $104 million pay-out from the IRS for help finding wealthy tax evaders). The individual lives abroad and received the reward in compliance with a portion of the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill passed in 2010. Image credit: wikimedia.org
A section of the law permits whistleblowers to receive 10 to 30 percent of the fines reaped by authorities due to information provided by the individual, but also requires the identity of the whistleblower be kept secret. The name of the business involved and the type of fraud were also redacted from official documents. Further developments remain to be seen. Regardless, since the passage of this law the federal government has collected increasing fines and penalties from violators of federal regulations, often using information from non-U.S. residents.
As Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC’s enforcement division boasted of the current case:
“This record-breaking award sends a strong message about our commitment to whistleblowers and the value they bring to law enforcement.”
Corporate fraud is nothing to excuse, but given the fortune made by the whistleblower who stepped in to protect investors, one must ask why there is no law in place to to reward employees of the government who publicly step forward to call out the crimes of the state. That begs the question (with an obvious answer): why, instead of being handsomely rewarded
—either materially or in spirit —are government whistleblowers harshly intimidated and punished?
For one, government whistleblowers don’t earn the state any money or good will. The government does not stand to make a profit off of news that U.S. Army soldiers indiscriminately kill innocent civilians and journalists in wars abroad. The federal authorities can’t make hundreds of millions of dollars off of revelations that the NSA is collecting mass amounts of American citizens’ private data. All the government gets from internal whistleblowers is bad publicity and outrage from tax payers, whereas prosecuting corporations yields fortunes.
If the lack of profit were the only reason that government employees who step forward aren’t lauded, then the country’s most well-known whistleblowers who reveal the most damning information about the state would not be sitting behind bars or hiding out in foreign countries.
The government has shown a vicious tendency to not only downplay and deny the truths Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and countless others reveal, but to unapologetically punish them for the embarrassment they cause. Rewards for corporate whistleblowers
—in contrast with prison time, calls of treason, and sometimes threatening demands for extradition —show that the government is all too happy to prosecute wrong-doing when it is committed by a corporation it can easily (and usually correctly) portray as an antagonist. The government loves whistleblowers when it gets to play the hero, albeit one that swoops in to cash in on the dirty profits of corporate wrong-doing. It does not like whistleblowers who reveal their own wrongdoing, incompetence, corruption and violence.
For example, the Obama administration has used the Espionage Act to attack whistleblowers and leakers more times than any other president combined. The law was passed in 1917 to prosecute spies, but its use has been broadly expanded to punish whistleblowers, and as a result, discourage those who might step forward. At best, whistleblowers who shame the state must face intimidation and fear for their jobs. At worst, they face character assassination, prison time, and charges of aiding terrorists. From the military to the NSA to the CIA to local police forces, those who dare to speak out against authorities must do so with the understanding that they will face relentless, demoralizing attacks.
If the American government wants its citizens to believe it truly wants transparency and has their best interests at heart, it should start treating all whistleblowers with the same amount of respect and appreciation
—not just the ones who serve its pockets and reputations.
Then again, it seems unlikely that Chelsea Manning will be freed from her life sentence to prison or that Edward Snowden will receive a cash prize for his revelations any time soon.
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