The Crucial Work Ahead: Building Ethical Corporate Cultures

Jordan Thomas -

In our ongoing work to protect individual whistleblowers and bring wrongdoing to light, we never lose sight of our fundamental goal: to help establish a culture in which corporations no longer retaliate against those who raise concerns about misconduct.

I was reminded of the importance of communicating this goal while serving as a panelist at the Thomson Reuters 4th Annual Corporate Whistleblowing Forum last Fall. In a recent article highlighting our session, the author noted that whistleblower lawsuits are bringing hard truths to light about the weakness of existing compliance programs. As I noted on the panel, building a culture of strong ethics begins with establishing consistent communication and support to employees who raise concerns. As we gain greater understanding of the challenges faced by whistleblowers, most of whom report wrongdoing internally first, companies have a responsibility, as well as an opportunity, to create corporate cultures in which compliance and ethics are integral to operations.

Protecting whistleblowers is not only about catching bad actors, but also about revolutionizing the way in which we view corporate ethics. As recent history has taught us, corporate misconduct can do more than alter the basic bottom line—it can lead to devastating consequences for individuals, companies, and society at large.


Five Tips for Potential Corporate Whistleblowers

Jordan Thomas -

In a recent piece in The New York Times, I discuss some of the key considerations for SEC whistleblowers including when, how and what to report, and how to navigate the high pressure environment of the whistleblower’s workplace. To read the full article, see here.


Historic Survey Sounds the Alarm: We’re Losing the Ethical Battle, Wall Street

Jordan Thomas -
Together with the University of Notre Dame, today we released the findings of a collaborative and historic survey of financial services professionals across the U.S. and UK. The Street, The Bull and The Crisis is the most expansive analysis of its kind, probing the ethical views of a broad spectrum of the industry, from young professionals to senior executives, investment bankers, and investment managers, from San Francisco to Scotland.

Despite sweeping reform efforts and headline-making consequences of corporate misconduct, the findings make clear that attitudes toward corruption within the industry have not changed for the better. Indeed, nearly half those polled find it likely that their competitors have engaged in misconduct in order to gain an edge in the market. On an individual level, 32 percent of professionals with less than a decade in the business would engage in insider trading if they could get away with it. That’s twice the figure (14 percent) for employees with more than two decades in the industry. What does this mean for the future of the industry and how will it impact the fragile confidence of investors?

We are most concerned by findings relating to the widespread use of secrecy policies and agreements—a full 25 percent of individuals earning $500,000+ per annum have been asking to sign a confidentiality agreement that would prohibit reporting illegal or unethical activities to the authorities. As federal agencies and Congress has made clear, corporate entities cannot obstruct an individual’s fundamental right to freely engage with his or her government.

For more information on our findings, please see the full report here or see select highlights in this infographic.

Law360 Minority Powerbroker Series

Jordan Thomas -
This week, I was honored to participate in Law360’s Minority Powerbroker Series. As I formulated my answers to five pivotal questions at the crossroads of race and professional development, I had time to reflect on the many colleagues and friends along the way who have been so supportive of my individual efforts. This made for a very rewarding Q&A! Please feel free to see the full article here.

Top Lawmakers Urge SEC to Protect Whistleblowers

Jordan Thomas -
This week, eight leading Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform and House Financial Services Committees sent a letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White calling on the Commission to ensure corporations do not enact measures meant to stymie whistleblowers. The letter pointed to a recent Washington Post article, which outlined numerous ways companies have restricted employees from reporting misconduct.

The letter echoes concerns that we, along with the Government Accountability Project, first raised in a July Op-Ed in the New York Times DealBook. Along with GAP and 250 other organizations, we have submitted a petition, urging the SEC to hold a series of hearings around the country to discuss the problem of workplace retaliation and explore new ways to increase reporting, internally and externally. It also asks the agency to create an advisory committee on whistleblower reporting and protection; to recommend program improvements and best practices; and engage in appropriate rule-making to clarify and strengthen whistleblower protections. This is a serious issue and we are glad Congress has taken notice of our efforts.

Please feel free to view the petition here - and, as always, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.

Whistleblowers on Tour

Jordan Thomas -
This week, I was honored to participate in the NYC stop of the Government Accountability Project’s Whistleblower Tour, which seeks to educate the public about the important role whistleblowers play in promoting government and corporate accountability. Speaking on a panel with Enron Whistleblower Sherron Watkins, Jon Oberg, Louis Clark and Jennifer Pacella was a phenomenal experience, which I’ll dive into in a forthcoming post. My thanks to GAP for organizing this important event and to Baruch College for hosting. For more information in the meantime, here’s an excellent article in Corporate Counsel.

Thomson Reuters’ Legal Education Arm and Labaton Sucharow Join Forces: Six-Part Webinar Series Launched

Jordan Thomas -
In August, we launched the first in a six-part series, Whistleblowing in the Corporate World, presented with West LegalEd, part of Thomson Reuters. Our first webinar kicked off with "The Advent of the SEC Whistleblower Program" in which I provide an overview of the origins, mechanics, scope and implications of this important investor protection program. Stay tuned for news and updates on other webinars and feel free to check out our entire digital library in our resource center.