Study Guide

Defintion of Whistleblower

Whistleblowers are seen as people who "sound an alarm from within the very organization in which the work, because of a threat to public interest". The article "Whistleblowing and Trust: Some Lessons from the ADM Scandal " focuses on the question of personal, corporate, and public trust. Basically trying to answer the questions: Does whistleblowing foster or destroy moral trust? and What makes whistleblowerws and the companies for whom they work worthy of employee and public trust?

Good Overviews

One good overview of the whistleblowing issue is the article Whistle Blowing by Michelle Allen. This article is fairly long but covers the topic quite well. A shorter overview is Information about Blowing the Whistle by Stocton Consulting

Case Studies

  • US CA: Officers Punished for Whistleblowing 
    • nearly 200 officers were punished for reporting misconduct and illegal activities
    • "Some of these officers reported beatings of homeless people, the killing of homeless people and the planting of drugs on innocent suspects," said attorney Bradley Gage of Woodland Hills
    • the lawsuit fell under Federal Jurisdiction because the complaints include civil rights and discrimination claims covered under federal code
    • lawsuit also alleges the police department has liability under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act

    Issues Raised by this topic:

    1. Should these officers have been punished for the reporting of misconduct and illegal activities?
    2. If you were these officers would you have reported the misconduct knowing that you could lose your job and risked being punished?

The Challenger Disaster

  • Roger Boisjoly discovers a leak in the primary seal of challenger
  • He sees early evidence of a Temperature Effect
  • Roger was asked to soften the urgency of the O-ring Problem
  • He was frustrated by the lack of management support
  • V. temperature forecast for Challenger Flight
  • A management decision overrides a recommendation not to launch
  • The Challenger explodes
  • Related discussion on this topic: 
  • Issues Raised by this topic:

    1. Should Boisly have acted more promptly and informed the media about the problem?
    2. When the original leak was discovered and the shuttle was already behind schedule, what should Boisjoly have done?
    3. Since Boisjoly did not have the hard data to prove his case, should he have still contacted the media to blow the whistle?
    4. Was Boisjoly, in these events, a heroic whistleblower risking his job for his principles, or was he a dutiful company man who was quiet when his management told him to be?
    5. Was he fatally too late in reporting the miscoduct/negligence of the company?
    6. What would you have done if you were faced with that same situation?

Blowing the Whistle on Boeing

  • "According to federal court records, David Sabey, whose Sabey Corp. had contracted to erect the buildings for Boeing, didn't meet the company's ultra-strict specifications. Wiring in some areas of the complex, for example, didn't meet code. In other places, safety measures were not up to snuff."
  • Kevin Kelly had been an electrician at the Boeing Co. for a couple of years when, in 1987, he got a call from his bosses to take on a special assignment
  • "I've had a lot of experience, 40 to 45 years, getting people to fulfill their contracts. When I go to Boeing and say there's something wrong, they do nothing, and I'm not satisfied. When you're a whistleblower, nobody wants you. But I have to live with Kevin Kelly.", Kelly commented
  • Kevin Kelly's assignment was to go into Oxbow plant, identify the problems, and assist with what would amount to millions of dollars in repair work. What Kelly found, federal court records show, was that instead of Boeing holding Sabey responsible for the repairs, the aerospace company merely billed the work back to the government
  • Kelly told his superiors that Sabey's people should have been doing the work. Kelly was told not to worry about it. Time and time again, Kelly brought the problem to the attention of Boeing managers, and time and time again, he was told to mind his own business
  • Seven months after he first stumbled upon the suspicious activity, Kelly's conscience kicked into overdrive. He decided he had no other choice but to blow the whistle on Boeing
  • Kelly handed over piles of internal Boeing records that revealed how the company went about billing the government for work that Kelly believed Sabey was responsible for doing, court records show. Convinced that Boeing may indeed have been ripping off the government, the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General slapped Boeing with a subpoena in April 1989, demanding records pertaining to the top-secret Oxbow facility.
  • Issues Raised by this topic:

    1. Did Kelly do the right thing blowing the whistle when he knew that he might not win his case?
    2. When his original suspicions were aroused and management did nothing to correct the oversight, should he have been more immediate in his whistle blowing?
    3. Should Kelly have handed over private company records to prove his allegations of misbilling?
    4. How would you have handled this situation?

Other Case Studies

  • Hughes Aircraft pays $4.05 million
    1. Are the consequences of this fraud case too much, too little, or about right?
    2. As a computer scientist, would you have thought to test those electrical components?
  • White House contractor alleges threats over 'hidden' emails
    1. Do Computer Scientists have an ethical obligation to report information of this kind to the proper authorities?
    2. If you were in Betty Lambuth's shoes, would you have listened to the threats and said nothing or reported the leak?