Whistleblower Special - a legal and media perspective from both sides of the Atlantic

Chancery Lane Chats

26-11-2020 • 42 mins

This special episode delves into the complex world of whistleblowing with an impressive panel of experts from the truth seeking frontline. Constantine Cannon’s whistleblower lawyers, Mary Inman and Henry C Su, alongside investigative journalists, Martin Wright and Katherine Eban, paint a stark picture of the US and UK legal and social landscapes within which whistleblowers have to survive.

From a $48 million whistleblower reward to the new Officials Secrets legislation in the UK, the panel are clear – with reporting under siege, whistleblowers must be protected and valued more than ever before.

Media attacks

“I think we need to put a health warning on this, because our traditional media is under fire. Its traditional financial models are crumbling….it’s unlike anything we have seen before, and this is a huge challenge to the democratic process”, warns British journalist, Martin Wright.

So, as it stands, whistleblowers ‘have become the fourth branch of government’ and the ‘watchdogs’ of society.

They are in need of improved legal protection on both sides of the pond, Mary proclaims.

Why?

Well, becoming a whistleblower can mean ruinous repercussions of perpetual unemployment and physical threats for the whistleblower and their family – and, all for the greater good of society as a whole.

In the case of the pandemic whistleblower Rick Bright for example, it was the public health threat posed by the corrupt funding of hydroxychloroquine production companies by the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency which drove him to sound the alarm.

Much like, as Catherine describes using her first-hand knowledge of the case, the whistleblower Dinesh Thakur who denounced India’s largest pharmaceutical company, Ranbaxy Laboratories.

Both cases lost them their jobs.

US and UK protections

The panel agrees that the ideal legal system should encourage whistleblowers to come forward, preclude prosecution and enforce action to be taken to right the wrong for which whistleblowers irreversibly turn their lives upside down.

The latter aspect, Mary points out, is a detrimental flaw in the UK system along with the default culture of governmental secrecy.

On the other hand, where the US’s ‘reactive’ but ‘fragmented’ whistleblowers legal framework lags behind the UK’s ‘employment retaliations’, it makes up for it in bounty programmes – such as that which won Dinesh $48 million in reward money.

Rewards

Now, whilst $48 million seems like a ‘gobsmacking’ amount, especially to the British attitude that whistleblowing should be for the moral satisfaction of doing the right thing, Mary is on a crusade to convince the Brits otherwise – and with some success.

Quoting from the recently converted Baroness Kramer, Mary makes her point:

“If someone loses their hand working on a production line, we will pay career long unemployment insurance. But why is that any different than what a whistle-blower suffers? It's career blacklisting.”

So, the verdict is in – whistleblowers need protection, action and deserved unemployment insurance in the name of democracy, truth and what is due for the courage to sacrifice their lives for the betterment of society.
Discussed in this podcast episode

  • Introductions to the panel of whistleblower experts
  • US and UK legal and cultural differences for whistleblowers
  • Attack of the media in the UK and the US
  • Whistleblower cases of Dinesh Thakur and Rick Bright
  • Recharacterising rewards into unemployment insurance
  • Dreams and hopes of legal protections

Links