Corporate whistleblowers have been helping to combat fraud, unethical practices and dangerous business behaviors for decades. The government has even enacted laws that protect whistleblowers from retaliation by companies after revealing criminal or unethical activities. Recent scandals involving some of the largest companies in the country have made three of these corporate whistleblowers famous.
Watkins testified with a corporate whistleblower lawyer in front of the United States House of Representatives in 2002. Her testimony lead to the downfall of Enron and revealed the criminal behavior of the corporation. She was awarded the 2002 Person of the Year award by Time magazine for her part in exposing corporate corruption.
Jeffrey Wigand is a scientist, researcher and biochemist who started working for Brown and Williamson in 1989. Brown and Williamson produced a wide range of cigarette and tobacco products. Wigand was the vice president of research and development for the company. He eventually helped to work on new additives for the cigarette products. He discovered that the company was using carcinogenic substances in order to increase the impact of the tobacco.
Wigand started to receive death threats and underwent a massive smear campaign from Brown and Williamson when he gave an interview to television news show 60 Minutes. The information Wigand provided as a whistleblower resulted in more scrutiny of the tobacco industry and many state lawsuits that won $368 billion in settlements against the company. He was played by Russell Crowe in a movie about the whistleblowing incident.
Harry Markopolos spent eight years between 2000 and 2008 providing information to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about the fraud at Madoff Securities. Markopolos first realized that Bernard Madoff was running an unsustainable Ponzi scheme when he saw impossible returns on investments each year. Unfortunately, the SEC took no action for eight years despite all of the warnings and hard information that Markopolos provided as a whistleblower.
Markopolos eventually provided testimony in front of several congressional panels with the help of a corporate whistleblower lawyer. He provided information that revealed a $65 billion fraud through the securities company. Markopolos helped to convict Madoff and helped to shine light on the inaction of the SEC and corporate culture in this case.