In a new piece for The Hill, Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins, WNN’s Senior Fellow for Ethics and Policy, highlights the importance of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Whistleblower Program among fears of an economic recession.
“Amid record-high inflation and fears of an economic recession on the horizon, the SEC whistleblower program is just as important as it’s been since its inception, which came on the heels of the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the Great Recession, and the infamous Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme,” Watkins writes.
Watkins begins the piece by recounting her personal experience blowing the whistle on Enron’s accounting scandal. Watkins notes that her role in exposing the Enron accounting scandal played a part in the establishment of the SEC Whistleblower Program: “in response to public outcry following this and similar high-profile instances of fraud, the [SEC]) established the agency’s own whistleblower program.”
Watkins recounts the immense successes of the whistleblower program: “[t]he SEC Office of the Whistleblower has received nearly 60,000 tips, placed monetary sanctions exceeding $5 billion on fraudsters, paid whistleblowers over $1 billion for their courageous efforts, and helped return more than $1 billion to investors in recovered funds.”
Watkins highlights a number of features which have led to the program’s success, including monetary awards and the ability of whistleblowers to make disclosures anonymously. “I can attest with firsthand knowledge the retribution I faced when I came forward,” she writes. “No one’s good name should be sullied for doing the right thing. The SEC’s anonymous provision protects future whistleblowers from experiencing the same retaliation I faced.”
“Despite this incredible level of success, the fraud lobby is once again attempting to undermine and weaken the program, making disingenuous arguments about its efficacy and fairness,” Watkins claims. Recent exclusive reporting by WNN has discredited some of the arguments referenced by Watkins.
“History proves that fraud increases as the country experiences a downturn in the economy,” Watkins writes in conclusion. “Can we actually afford, literally, to do less to prevent fraud? The SEC’s whistleblower program is the agency’s most effective tool at rooting out fraud, but attempts to weaken the law will undermine future justice from being served to those who attempt to defraud.”