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Whistle-Blowing Soars to Record With Americans Working From Home

  • Written by Steel Rose

The work-from-home phenomenon has triggered a fresh frustration for U.S. corporations: Americans are blowing the whistle on their employers like never before.

The proof is in the data, with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission receiving 6,900 tips alleging white-collar malfeasance in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, a 31% jump from the previous 12-month record. Officials at the agency, which pays whistle-blowers for information that leads to successful investigations, say the surge really started gaining traction in March when Covid-19 forced millions to relocate to their sofas from office cubicles.

The isolation that comes with being separated from a communal workplace has made many employees question how dedicated they are to their employers, according to lawyers for whistle-blowers and academics. What’s more, people feel emboldened to speak out when managers and co-workers aren’t peering over their shoulders.

“You’re not being observed at the photocopy machine when you’re working from home,” said Jordan Thomas, a former SEC official who helped set up the agency’s whistle-blower program a decade ago. “It’s never been easier to record a meeting when you can do it from your dining room table,” added Thomas, who now represents tipsters as an attorney at Labaton Sucharow in Washington.

Adam Waytz, a psychologist and professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, agrees.

“When you feel disconnected from work, you feel more comfortable speaking up,” said Waytz, who has studied the motivations of whistle-blowers.

Massive Award

Intended or not, the SEC itself has played a big role in encouraging informants to come forward by showing how lucrative whistle-blowing can be. Since the pandemic hit the U.S., the agency has paid out some $330 million in awards, including an eye-popping $114 million to a single tipster in October. While the payments are tied to SEC investigations that almost certainly predate coronavirus, the amount of money going out the door is unprecedented in the decade since the regulator started its whistle-blower program.To read more click here

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