The federal government protects whistleblowers because they assist them in stopping the illegal behavior in major corporations and organizations. The reports typically reveal illegal or dangerous behavior, wasted funds or employee abuses. With the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, the government was able to offer legal protection for people that wanted to stop the illegal behavior they had proof of without fear of retribution from the corporation they were informing the government about.
Technically a whistleblower is anyone that informs authorities about illegal activities performed by an organization. Someone that is an “eligible whistleblower” is a person that provides original, previously unknown information that specifically leads to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) action with sanctions of more than $1 million against the offending corporation. Whistleblowers can act on their own or with a group of people by cannot be another company or organization. Some successful cases may result in a financial reward for the whistleblower.
How are they protected?
The SEC works to protect the identity of their informants as much as possible. They are legally protected from retaliation from their employer or legal action against them from the companies they turn in. If harassment does occur or if an employer suspends or fires a protected whistleblower they could be forced to repay any expenses and potentially double the amount of any lost wages.
How does someone report a tip?
In order to qualify for an award and for protection under the law, the whistleblower needs to report their tip in one of two ways. They may contact the SEC office directly by mailing or faxing a TCR form with the information they have available or they can provide the information online through the Government’s Securities and Exchange website. The website offers a portal specifically for this type of information.
Whistleblowers do not need to be employees of the company they turn in to the SEC. In many instances, it is employees that have the information that leads to SEC fines, but anyone with original information that has not been previously reported to the SEC is eligible for the protection and a potential award.