On July 15th, Congress passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act – H.R. 4173 – which provided a number of additional protections for whistleblowers, including a qui tam provision that rewards whistleblowers monetarily for alerting authorities to fraud in the stock and commodities industries. The Act also strengthened anti-retaliatory measures for workers who reveal fraud to commodities agencies and/or the SEC and who give info to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (a new organization established by the law).
Prior the passage of H.R. 4173, whistleblowers at rating organizations like Standard & Poor’s lacked effective protection. The bill fixes the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) to close loopholes, so that employees even at rating agencies can feel free to come forward with allegations of fraud or misconduct. The Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center, Stephen Kohn, sung praises of the legislation. According to an official PR statement, Kohn said that “[H.R.4173] is one of the most important advances in whistleblower legislation to date…the anti-retaliation laws of the past have not adequately protected the public interest because employees remain afraid to make disclosures.”
Kohn also noted that the whistleblower system must have built-in incentives; otherwise, employees might be tempted to allow fraud to go unchecked because it would not be in their financial interest to come forward. While whistleblower advocates generally celebrated this bill, others in the community want further action to protect federal employees, so that they too can feel freer to come forward and expose fraud and corruption and bad practices.