Research Handbooks in Financial Law series
Edited by Barry Rider
Why is it that when we hear the term ‘whistleblower’ we are caught with mixed emotions? Is the whistleblower someone to admire? To be protected? Or someone being a nuisance? What is it about the term that stimulates this reaction? What does the term mean and what are the connotations that it raises? This chapter describes the origins of the meaning of whistleblower, some of the issues that raise those emotions, what legislation has been adopted to address how whistleblowers can be protected and concludes by arguing that the real protection for the whistleblower lies in building organisations that support systems that prevent crime and values that support an ethical culture. More than one origin is claimed for the term ‘whistleblower’. One account has its origin in the practice of English police officers who would blow their whistle when they noticed the commission of a crime. The whistle would alert other law enforcement officers and the general public of danger. Its contemporary use has been attributed to Ralph Nader who, in a 1971 conference presentation and subsequently in book form, applied the term to the person who disclosed information about defects in the automobile industry. Since then, whistleblowing has regularly been applied in the news media to reports of wrongdoing, mostly of illegal, immoral or illegitimate practices. They provide many of our more sensational news stories. There are many examples.
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