What Is A Whistle Blower?


The use of the term “whistle blower” originates from the 19th century. Yet the coining of the term by Ralph Nader shifted its connotation from negative to positive. The term combines “whistle,” a device used to alert or call attention to, and “blower,” which refers to the person issuing the alert by whistle blowing. Commonly, whistle blowers are also referred to as sports referees as they alert the crowd, players, and coaches of illegal sports play. During the 1960s, journalists and other political activists, such as Ralph Nader, used the term excessively to change the public’s understanding of the term to what it is today.

A whistle blower is a person who might be an employee of a corporation or a government department, exposing information to the public or any higher authority about any misconduct that may be in the form of fraud, abuse, etc. A whistle blower is a person who comes forward and reveals his / her knowledge about any misconduct that he/she feels is occurring in the organization as a whole or a specific organization.

There is specific legislation to protect whistle blowers from losing their jobs or getting mistreated. Many organizations have a specific policy that explicitly outlines how to handle an event of this type. A whistle blower may file a lawsuit or lodge a complaint with higher authorities that will initiate a criminal investigation against the company or its agency. Whistle blowers are of two types: internal and external. External whistle blowers are those who report the wrongdoing, fraud, or indiscipline to the organization’s senior officers such as the head of human resources or CEO. External whistle blowing is a term used when whistle blowers reveal wrongdoings to people outside the organization, such as the media, senior officials in government, or police. In the form of fraud, deceiving employees, corruption, or any other act that misleads people, the crime or wrongdoing could be. The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011 sets the full framework for investigating suspected cases of misconduct.

A whistle blower on the simplest level is someone who exposes waste, fraud, abuse, corruption, or public health and safety threats to someone in a position to rectify the wrongdoing. A whistle blower typically works inside the organization where the wrongdoing occurs; however, being an “insider” agency or company is not essential for serving as a whistle blower. What matters is that the individual should disclose information about wrongdoing that would not be known otherwise.

Individuals who wish to enjoy whistle blower law protections and rewards cannot rely on that simplified definition. They must adhere to the meanings and procedures of the laws by which they pursue official recognition as whistle blowers. In the U.S., there are now dozens of whistle blower laws at the federal, state, and local levels, ranging from the False Claims Act to the Clean Air Act to the Antarctic Conservation Act, and each has unique definitions and procedures. It’s important to follow those rules and procedures. Although it may be noble to serve as a whistle blower outside of these channels, those who operate within them can secure important protections against retaliation and, in some cases, financial rewards for helping to prosecute the wrongdoer. This is why the National Whistle blower Center suggests which potential whistle blowers find a lawyer before attempting to blow the whistle.


Although the tangle of whistle blower rights and security laws can be daunting, the four-plus decades of success in getting such laws enacted points to an essential truth: there is strong bipartisan agreement that whistle blowers are a vital weapon in the fight against bribery and other misconduct. Every year, thousands of people around the world blow the whistle on everything from bad accounting to tax fraud to pollution, to illegal trade in wildlife. These activities can have a huge financial effect on government, corporate owners, and taxpayers, and many of them will be incredibly difficult for law enforcement to figure out alone. They will go undetected, without whistle blowers.

It was the whistle blowers who revealed Watergate and the Vietnam War failures; who disclosed the major accounting fraud that took Enron and World Com down in the early 2000s; who exposed hidden Swiss bank accounts; and who exposed nicotine’s health hazards in tobacco products. These are just a few key examples of how big a change can be made by whistle blowers. They are integral to government, economy, and public health. The National Whistle blower Center works every day to protect whistle blowers by providing them with legal aid, lobbying for policy safeguards, and honoring their achievements.

A whistle blower is someone who has insider knowledge of an organization’s illegal activity and reports it to them. Whistle blowers can be employees, suppliers, contractors, customers, or anyone who becomes conscious of illegal business activities. Whistle blowers are protected from retaliation through various programs created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Sarbanes Oxley Act, and the Securities and Exchange Committee (SEC). Federal workplace protection is enshrined in the 1989 Whistle blower Protection Act.

Many organizations are dedicated to addressing whistle blowing but some organizations specialize in specific aspects of whistle blowing. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is more interested in infringements of the environment and safety and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is more concerned with violations of securities law. Most organizations provide incentives for impactful information, allow for confidential tips, and have various methods for information submission. A whistle blower can reveal information to officials at the organization or a broad governing or regulatory body.


One of the whistle blowers most prominent is W. Mark Felt, also known as “Deep Throat,” who during the Watergate Scandal revealed the involvement of former President Richard Nixon in illegal dealings. Another prominent whistle blower is Sherron Watkins, a former employee of Enron, who shed light on fraudulent accounting practices at the firm. Enron ceased operations as a result and brought about the birth of the Sarbanes Oxley Act.


Whistle-blowers are protected against retaliation if the information provided confirms true. This protection includes the prohibition of taking adverse or harmful action against the reporter by the accused company. Demotion, termination, reprimands, and other punitive responses are antagonistic behaviors. The defense of whistle blowers also includes restrictions from the organization taking legal proceedings against the whistle blower to recover damages suffered during the investigation or imposed sanctions. In some circumstances, more protection may be offered where there are threats of physical violence against the whistle blower or associates and the whistle blower’s family.


The whistle blower can often have the right to a reward as compensation for reporting illicit activities. This reward is usually a percentage of the dollar amount recovered by the government or regulating agency resulting from the information given by the whistle-blower. To qualify, recovery of a minimum sum may be necessary, and the information given must be special or previously not recorded otherwise. Most companies have systems to warn wasteful practices in management. These activities may be criminal, or may not be. As a whistle blower, therefore, individuals reporting wasteful practices may not get protection. Many organizations also welcome input from all stakeholders to strengthen operations and practices. The person reporting may be recognized for their efforts to improve efficiency and may be entitled to a certain nominal reward. Reporting waste can qualify the person as a whistle blower in incidents involving the discovery of gross waste, or waste involving a significant dollar amount of value, especially within government agencies.

This Article is Authored by Nehal Misra, 3rd Year B.Com LL.B (Hons), Student of Institute of Law Nirma University.

Also Read – What Are The Different Types of Whistle Blowers?

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