Sorry, Whistleblowers, You're on Your Own

The U.S. Labor Department has only "ruled in favor of [corporate] whistleblowers 17 times out of 1,273 complaints filed since 2002," and has dismissed 841 cases. Many of the dismissals were based "on the technicality that workers at corporate subsidiaries aren't covered" by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The Act, passed after the Enron and Worldcom scandals, contained the first federal protections for corporate whistleblowers. Senator Patrick Leahy, who helped draft the Act, says it covers workers in corporate subsidiaries. "Otherwise," he explained, "a company that wants to do something shady, could just do it in their subsidiary." The Labor Department disagrees. One of the whistleblower cases it dismissed involves communications giant WPP. A former staffer at WPP's ad firm Ogilvy & Mather claims he was fired "in retaliation for his cooperation with a federal criminal investigation into his employer's billing practices." Two former Ogilvy executives received prison sentences for overbilling the U.S. government, but the staffer's whistleblower complaint was dismissed. Even though WPP describes its firms as "centrally integrated," the Labor Department ruled that Ogilvy is a subsidiary not covered by Sarbanes-Oxley.