Would you ever be a whistleblower? Part two

By Jennifer Lynch

Law360 Canada (April 26, 2023, 10:46 AM EDT) --
Jennifer Lynch
Jennifer Lynch
In part one of this series, we discussed the importance of whistleblowers in fighting financial crimes and other wrongdoings, as well as some of the famous whistleblowers throughout history. However, many people are still reluctant to speak up at work. What stops them from doing so? One of the main reasons is the risk involved in being a whistleblower.

Making the decision to become a whistleblower is not easy. Whistleblowers often face retaliation or legal action from their employer or other implicated parties. They may even face physical harm or threats. Whistleblowers can become isolated from their colleagues, experience financial strain from losing their job and potential legal fees and find it difficult to find new employment because other companies may know what they’ve done.

In addition to the risks above, many employees are not aware that reporting wrongdoing is their duty. Job-related duties and compliance, including reporting misconduct, must be clearly outlined in the employment contract. Employers should make sure the unwritten expectations and ethical duties are explicit in the code of conduct and policies. These policies need to be communicated on a regular basis.

Despite the risks, many whistleblowers speak up because they want to create positive changes in the world, prevent further losses for victims and protect the public. They are often considered heroes, gaining respect and recognition from the public for their bravery and integrity.  Whistleblowers, despite the difficulties, also report feeling a sense of personal satisfaction and fulfilment from speaking out against wrongdoing.

In addition, some countries and organizations offer monetary rewards to whistleblowers. For example, in Canada, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC)’s whistleblower program, launched in July 2016, offers protections for whistleblowers, as well as a reward of up to $5 million for tips that lead to enforcement action. Employers should consider introducing monetary award programs in their whistleblowing policies.

Despite the risks, whistleblowers can take steps to protect themselves. They can find information by reviewing their employment contract and policies and contacting government agencies such as the OSC and Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA), which have whistleblower guidance. They may also have protection under laws such as the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, the Competition Act, and the Criminal Code. However, in some cases, these laws may not provide sufficient protections, and whistleblowers may need to turn to legal organizations and lawyers who specialize in whistleblowing law, as well as non-profit organizations.

Most whistleblowers report internally to management, compliance or a neutral third party within the company. They can also report to external entities, such as the media, government or law enforcement.

Like whistleblowers, forensic accountants play a vital role in fighting fraud. They serve as expert witnesses in legal proceedings related to whistleblower claims, providing insight and analysis on financial and accounting issues, and in turn, mitigate the financial damages to the victims.
This is the second instalment of a two-part series. Part one: Would you ever be a whistleblower? Part one.

Jennifer Lynch is the founder and principal forensic accountant of Lynch & Associates, Forensic Accountants, practising in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death claims, matrimonial disputes and fraud examinations. She obtained her master of business administration degree through the Schulich School of Business. She holds a chartered professional accountant designation, a certified management accountant designation, a certified fraud examiner designation, a certified forensic investigator designation and a chartered business valuator designation. She is also a qualified expert witness. You can reach her on LinkedIn.  

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s firm, its clients, Law360 Canada, LexisNexis Canada, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

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