“Looking for whistleblowers in all the wrong places”

I had the pleasure today of interviewing Donna Boehme about the impact Dodd-Frank has had on corporate compliance programs. Our discussion about creating a corporate culture open to employee reports led to an interesting case detailed in her recently published column in Compliance and Ethics Professional. In the article, she talks about a group of employees at two national banks (BNY Mellon and State Street) who blew the whistle on approximately $2 billion worth of systematic foreign exchange trading fraud. These employees were recruited to blow the whistle by Harry Markopolos, the man who figured out what Bernie Madoff was doing and tried to warn the SEC years before the case erupted.

Ms. Boehme says the fact that these employees were actively recruited might lead some to believe that a “new breed” of whistleblowers, recruited to expose fraud by investigators outside the company, might be born out of the Dodd-Frank Act, but it is too soon to tell. She explains that the new SEC program for whistleblower disclosures has received over 334 tips in its first seven weeks. Boehme argues that instead of trying to “find the whistleblower” when fraud investigations get started, corporations should have a high-level Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer who is independent from the legal department and with direct access to the Board of Directors. This first test case highlights that companies should seriously evaluate whether their corporate culture supports internal whistleblowing, or be prepared to pay the price when they decide to go directly to external authorities. She does not believe that monetary rewards are the sole motivator, and cites recent surveys that employees prefer to report internally (culture trumps money).

Listen to the podcast of today’s show to hear the rest of our discussion.

Ms. Boehme is the principal at Compliance Strategists LLC in New Providence, New Jersey, a former chief compliance and ethics officer, a member of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics’s Advisory Board, and the editor of the weekly CS Newsflash.

* Legal Intern David Kutch contributed to this posting.

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