Did Obama Really Wage a ‘War on Whistleblowers’?

Law360
November 28, 2016

Jordan A. Thomas comments on the status of the whistleblower program as Obama leaves office


President Obama had publicly praised government whistleblowers for their “courage and patriotism” prior to taking office.  As president, he had ordered government agencies to publish more information about their activities online and promised to increase legal protections for government whistleblowers. 

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the financial reform bill passed in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, created a new whistleblower office to collect and investigate tips about corporate wrongdoing. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission received nearly 4,000 tips in 2015, an increase of about 30 percent from 2011, the first full year of the program. Under a bounty program designed to incentivize whistleblowing, the agency has given out more than $54 million to 22 whistleblowers.

Partner Jordan A. Thomas told Law360 that the legislation has significantly increased the probability that corporate wrongdoing will be detected rather than swept under the rug. This has encouraged corporations around the country to improve their internal reporting systems, as well as report legal violations in hopes of getting a lighter punishment. “There’s no question in my mind that the SEC whistleblower program and the CFTC whistleblower program forced corporate America to get serious about ensuring that their businesses are run in a more ethical and lawful way,” Thomas said.