Why aren’t we paying the whistleblowers?

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The FT reported this week that:

A whistleblower rewarded for exposing accounting violations has taken the unusual step of naming his employer, Monsanto, in the hope of prodding the regulator to take action against its auditor, Deloitte.

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday said it had awarded $22.4m – the second biggest payout since the programme was set up six years ago – to the corporate insider who helped the agency uncover a “well-hidden fraud”.

The award came six months after the SEC reached an $80m settlement with Monsanto, the agribusiness company, to resolve claims that it failed to properly account for the costs of a sales rebate programme for Roundup, its best-selling weedkiller.

The follow on question is obvious, and is why aren't we paying whistleblowers, whether on fraud, tax abuse or anything else that costs society dear?

Whistleblowers take real risk. Most act only because a situation has become intolerable. Ethically they have reached the point where the conflicts they face require them to disclose misconduct. That misconduct almost invariably has a high social cost. That cost will rarely, directly, be to the whistleblower. For them the price is to their conscience.

And then to their career, family and future well-being because we treat whistleblowers abysmally. It's as if we have never got over the schooldays idea that telling takes is wrong, even if what is told is right. So it's the teller who always transgresses, however well motivated their action.

I think this has to change.

And I think that the time has come for such payments to be structured, predictable and significant enough to cover whistleblower risk.

And I think we would all gain as a result.