Part 5: Waiting for payout a grueling test of tenacity for whistleblowers

Jeffrey Smith

The road to a payout for whistleblowers is long, lonely, and full of obstacles.

The process is naturally isolating—whistleblowers’ identities are protected, but in exchange, they cannot talk about their case with anyone but their lawyer or risk jeopardizing the reward. Further, their employer or industry often shuns them, boxing them into a corner on the suspicion they are telling a truth likely to result in financial pain for whatever entity is accused of fraud or malfeasance.

“This is an extraordinary risk that people are taking—it could be career-altering or career-ending,” said Sean McKessy, who led the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of the Whistleblower from 2012-16. “A payout offers the opportunity to be financially rewarded, to compensate you for what you lost, or allow you to never have to work again,” he said. The success of the SEC’s whistleblower program, McKessy said, “underscores that the financial incentive is a very important piece of the puzzle.”

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