How to Blow the Whistle (from a Bank Whistleblower)

By Brian Penny

May 30, 2014   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Whistle blowers are stigmatizing – people either love or hate you for it. Not only that, it’s one of the most difficult projects you’ll ever work on. Exposing fraud seems simple, but for every Edward Snowden in the news, there are countless people who tried, failed, and were never heard from again.

They don’t teach whistle blowing in school. If you’re looking to make a difference in the world, here’s the reality of it and what you can do.

1 – Question Everything

It amazes me how uninformed people are about their role in the business and how they affect the end game. Organizations keep everyone on a need-to-know basis as part of their risk management strategies. You don’t know anything but your job, and your boss wants to keep it that way.

It’s done so both sides are able to work succinctly together without thinking about how they affect the world around them. Don’t be afraid to ask your boss questions about any process you’re following. This not only makes you a more effective and valuable employee, it makes you aware of what you’re doing to your community.

2 – Research Everything

There’s no excuse for not being an expert at whatever you do to make a living. You should be doing homework on your job – not necessarily for your career, but for your personal development. This isn’t just for whistle blowing purposes, but to validate your own perspective and experiences.

Anytime a new product or service is introduced, check out the media reaction. If there is none, start contacting media anonymously to let them know. Find journalists who write about your company or industry and let them know who you work for. They may have questions you don’t realize until you try.

3 – Document Everything

Witnessing or participating in fraud is one thing – proving it is entirely different. Just because something is obvious to you doesn’t make it obvious to us. Seriously think through what you would prove what you’re saying. You need written documentation, video, or audio you can’t get once you leave the organization.

Get as many examples as you can: Take notes, get people used to you recording meetings. Smile and look like a team player while documenting every aspect of your daily life. You spend 40+ hours a week at work – why not document your life, if for no other reason than to validate your own existence? You do it at home and everywhere else.

4 – Translate Jargon

Assume nobody knows what you do except you. When you blow a whistle, you’re not talking to coworkers. None of us have the first clue what you do, so walk us through it from step one.

5 – Don’t Ever Be Afraid

Understand you can’t leak documents without making a sacrifice. To prove what you have to prove and be taken seriously, you need to make an impact. This means putting yourself at risk or leaking private info about others. You can’t make a difference risk-free, and if you try, you will fail, I promise you.

This doesn’t mean you are in any real danger, so don’t be afraid. If you expose true fraud, the media and the public will support you. You won’t end up disappearing. If you are afraid, you won’t leak the necessary info, and nobody will ever take your accusations seriously. You’re not the first person who tried, and this is why none of them succeeded.

Above all else, remember the power of people is in volume. By taking a stand, people will support you. You can make a true difference in this world if you’re willing to take a stand. Like anything else in life, whistle blowing isn’t a path to overnight success. It’s a difficult path, but if you choose to walk it, you can be successful. Don’t give up.

Brian Penny

Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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