No more moral high ground for whistle blowers?

15 October 2013

Yet another US style importation is on the cards.

Not content with Deferred Prosecution Agreements, the UK government (BIS, MOJ and HO) is now considering the case for incentivising whistle blowers including providing financial incentives in cases of alleged fraud, bribery and corruption (see paragraph 6.44 of the government's Serious and Organised Crime Strategy).

You might well ask what incentives are envisaged for whistle blowing in other cases but, leaving that aside, are financial incentives for whistle blowers really such a great idea? If the American prototype is anything to go by, we are not talking "chump change" here. There has just been a pay out by the US Securities and Exchange Commission of, no kidding, $14 million(!) to a whistle blower who provided information that led to the recovery of a "substantial" amount of investor funds.

Call me old-fashioned but I thought whistle blowing was about righting injustice not lining one's own pockets.

Fortunately, David Green, Director of the SFO, is distinctly luke warm to the idea. As an experienced prosecutor he can see only too clearly how easy it will be for defence barristers to destroy the credibility of whistle blowers giving evidence for the prosecution simply on the grounds that they are being paid.

Let's hope he's not a lone voice crying in the wilderness...