The Brief: Whistleblowers can spark change, no matter who they are.
Your Next Move: If you’re worried that stepping forward could compromise your anonymity, know that H Street Law is here to discuss your concerns.
Whistleblowers can really shake up their companies and their industries. There’s a reason that Edward Snowden, Erin Brockovich and Deep Throat are practically household names: their revelations had profound impacts.
There are many whistleblowers who aren’t as famous but who are just as impactful. Their cases are all different, but their courage, their bravery and their stories are all inspiring: in the context of normal lives (not the Hollywood-ready ones), these individuals found the courage to step forward. Here are the stories of two of them.
A Whistleblower in the Auto Industry
Back in 2015, legislation passed in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act set up a whistleblower program through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The next year, Kim Gwang-ho stepped forward. An engineer at Hyundai, Kim reported that the auto manufacturer was not acknowledging “an engine issue that was causing [engine] seizures and fires with potential safety consequences.”
Kim was awarded $24 million through the NHTSA’s whistleblower program. Jason Levine, the executive director for the Center for Auto Safety, said that “whistleblowers play a critical role in exposing vehicle safety and quality issues…they must be protected when they risk their careers to protect everyone on the road from dangerous defective vehicles.”
A Whistleblower alerts the FDA to Baby Formula Concerns
As of this writing, the United States is experiencing an historic baby formula shortage, in part because of safety concerns at Abbott Nutrition.
A whistleblower lodged a complaint with the Food and Drug Administration in October, detailing “poor cleaning practices, falsified records and instances where employees knowingly put out formula that may have been contaminated.”
While the FDA has been criticized for its slow response, the complaint did lead to a December interview and a January plant inspection; the consequences, had this employee chosen not to speak out, may well have been far more severe for American children.
From national industries to local communities, whistleblowers play an important role. Maybe it’s a good thing that Hollywood doesn’t pick up all of these stories: it makes it easier for people to step forward when there is no spotlight on them, and it suggests that people like us have the courage and the strength to call out misconduct and wrongdoing.