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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and Whistleblowing


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Depending on who one asks, different definitions of whistleblowing exist.  Eaton and Akers (2007) stated that “In its simplest form, whistleblowing involves the act of reporting wrongdoing within an organization to internal or external parties” (para. What is Whistleblowing).  Most organizations have Whistleblower hotlines.  Conducting a quick Google search searching for hotlines resulted in most state government, state schools, and major corporations.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX)

Of impetus in the creation of Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) was the scandalous affairs of Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco (Eaton & Akers).  SOX set forth rules for corporate governance that were not in place prior to 2002, thus the scandals.  “After all, SOX was developed in response to high-profile corporate scandals that included Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco, and was not designed to address problems in other sectors” (Eaton & Akers, 2007, p. 1).  From the WorldCom and Enron situations two whistleblowers emerged.  “In 2002, Time magazine named whistleblowers Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom, Sherron Watkins of Enron” (para. What is Whistleblowing).

From the WorldCom and Enron situations, two whistleblowers emerged.  “In 2002, Time magazine named whistleblowers Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom, Sherron Watkins of Enron” (para. What is Whistleblowing).  One of the most famous whistleblowers was Sherron Watkins who turned in Ken Lay in the Enron scandle.  It seems that the employees who lost money have found ways to make money from the situation. Right after the company filed bankruptcy, Enron-related products appeared all over eBay, the online auction.  At one point, in 2002, there were up to 4200 auctions (Hageman, 2002).

Sherron Watkins Today

Sherron Watkins is now presenting on ethics and reminds college students today of the importance of ethics in the workplace.

Don’t be afraid to speak the truth. The real tragedy is when people stay silent.” And, don’t allow big bucks to lure you into overlooking wrongs. 

Students entering the workforce should pay attention to the tone set by an employer’s CEO, and associate with those who demonstrate pristine ethics and values, and who love the organization. “I used to think the person at the top didn’t matter, but now, I believe the complete opposite. The one person at the top makes all the difference,” Watkins said. (Heidleberg University, 2010)

Dr. Jeffrey Wigand

Interesting, there is another tale of whistleblowing that was made into a movie called The Insider.  This movie was based on another corporate whistle blower, Dr. Jeffrey Wigand.  (“A research chemist comes under personal and professional attack when he decides to appear in a "60 Minutes" expose on Big Tobacco”)



“Dr. Wigand decided to go public by delivering a damning courtroom deposition against his employer – a move that eventually led to the tobacco industry’s $246 billion litigation settlement in 1998 to help pay for smoking-related health care bills in the U.S." (Thomas, 2010).  Although Dr Wigand endured severe retaliation, much like Sherron Watson, he advises young people to stand up for ethical behavior.  “With regard to Dr. Wigand's advice to young people, what astonishes me is that despite his own experience of severe retaliation and negative effects on his life, he advises young people to try to change the system” (Marcia, 2004, para. 4).

More on whistleblower retaliation in future articles.

Author: Dr. Andree Swason

References

Eaton, T. V., & Akers, M. D. (2007). Whistleblowing and good governance: Policies for universities, government entities, and nonprofit organizations. The CPA Journal Online. Retrieved from http://www.nysscpa.org/cpajournal/2007/607/essentials/p58.htm

Enron whistleblower: Ethics matter in corporate culture. (2010). Heidleberg University. From http://www.heidelberg.edu/newsevents/2010/patadamsfall2010

Hageman, W. (2002, Jan 28). Enron ethics manual and much more for sale on eBay. Knight Ridder Tribune Business News. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/462313204?accountid=32521

Marcia, P. M. (2004). Whistle-blowing research and the insider: Lessons learned and yet to be learned. Journal of Management Inquiry, 13(4), 364-366. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/203306587?accountid=32521 

Thomas, C. (2010, Nov.). Whistleblowing is dangerous to your health. The Ethical Nag. Retrieved from http://ethicalnag.org/2010/11/20/whistleblowing-is-dangerous-to-your-health/


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