Whistleblower award programs have revolutionized the enforcement of a wide-variety of corporate crimes from securities fraud to government contracting fraud. Incentivizing insiders with monetary awards and offering safe confidential reporting channels has proven to be a highly effective means to learn of otherwise hard-to-detect crimes. A much-needed bill currently sitting in Congress would leverage the power of whistleblower awards to police a new area: environmental crimes.
The bipartisan Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act (WCATA), which broadly supports wildlife conservation and addresses wildlife trafficking, includes requirements for federal agencies to implement whistleblower award programs. The bill would provide a valuable new tool to U.S. authorities as they work to police a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal and unregulated fishing, wildlife trafficking, and illegal deforestation.
Given their global scope and highly secretive nature, environmental crimes are famously hard to detect without the aid of insiders. Given the extreme, often life-threatening dangers of blowing the whistle on environmental crimes, the U.S. cannot expect insiders to come forward without guaranteed award payments and safe reporting channels. The late Representative Don Young (R-AK), one of the original sponsors of WCATA, described whistleblowers as “our eyes and ears on the ground” and “invaluable partners in the fight against illegal hunting and fishing.” In order to ensure that whistleblowers fully cooperate with U.S. authorities, Congress must pass WCATA.
Environmental whistleblowers deserve the same incentives and protections as corporate whistleblowers. Environmental crimes are continuing to decimate the planet, heightening the climate crisis and pushing species towards the brink of extinction. An invaluable tool in the fight against environmental crime is available to U.S. authorities. Congress must act to immediately pass WCATA and enable whistleblowers to help protect the planet.