As the Pentagon and Department of Justice scurry across the web chasing after WikiLeaks, corporate America is working to silence the whistles of potential informants in its own ranks -- undoubtedly with the Bank of America data dump on its mind.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has proposed rules based on the financial reform legislation that passed over the summer, and corporations are urging the agency to muzzle new whistleblowers. In fact, they want to require whistleblowers to report to their employers before going to the government -- giving bosses the perfect chance to shut them up!
Corporate criminals ran the rest of us off an economic cliff without even smudging their white shoes. There's no telling how many homes and jobs might have been spared -- and how many crooked careers might have been done in -- if people of good conscience had had the will to come forward faster.
The Dodd-Frank financial reform law was supposed to make that possible: It says that whistleblowers who provide key information to the government should receive hefty rewards -- up to 30 percent of the money the government fines the crooked corporations. Those payoffs are crucial, as there are powerful financial and social incentives for potential informants sit on their hands and bite their lips.
But now the SEC is proposing rules that would water down the reforms by encouraging whistleblowers to go through their wrongdoing companies' internal compliance structures: They'd actually get more money if they waited to go public, first taking their concerns to their own employers, and risking getting fired! The SEC even admits that their new rules could discourage whistleblowing and "limit access to important information."
Even worse, the big business lobby wants the SEC to rewrite the rules to actually force whistleblowers to take their concerns to the corrupt corporations' internal compliance officers before going to the government.
For instance, corporate law firm Arent Fox wrote in to recommend "that the SEC require employees of public companies to utilize... internal whistleblower procedures to report suspected wrong doing as a required prerequisite to making a claim under Section 922 of Dodd-Frank." You can read some of the comments here.
The SEC has been meeting with corporate lobbyists and reading letters from corporate lawyers who want the regulations to leave potential whistleblowers confused, demoralized, and vulnerable to reprisal from their bosses. The agency is taking public comments for one more week, and they need to hear from us.