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Renowned US attorney says UK government should open whistleblower office

Mary Inman has represented high-profile whistleblowers for over 20 years

A leading US whistleblower lawyer says, less than a year after opening an office in London, she has already been approached by over 25 whistleblowers and has launched three cases under US whistleblower reward programmes. 

Mary Inman, of law firm Constantine Cannon, made her comments during a guest lecture at the University of East London (UEL) to MBA students studying corporate governance and globalisation.

Ms Inman said, “When a whistleblower comes to me, they’ve usually tried to raise their concerns three times within their firm, and have not been listened to or taken seriously.” 

She explained that unlike some high-profile whistleblowers who seek to expose governments, her clients provide information that the US government has been defrauded or that its regulatory interests have been undermined.

Ms. Inman told her audience that the financial rewards offered by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) contribute to encouraging and supporting whistleblowers to come forward.  

She said, “In the UK there isn’t a reward system, but there should be. Members of the House of Lords like Baroness Susan Veronica Kramer and Lord Cromwell have publicly called for one to be introduced.”

Ms Inman has represented whistleblowers for over 20 years, and her clients have included an array of high- profile cases which resulted in large rewards.

Ms Inman said that from 2011 to 2017, whistleblowers from 95 countries made 438 submissions to the SEC under its whistleblower reward program. Most of those submissions came from the UK and the UK financial services sector, so the demand is clearly there, she said.

For the fiscal year 2016, the US Justice Department recovered more than $4.7 billion – the third-highest amount the US has ever recovered in a single year – for civil fraud and false claims cases. Generally, whistleblowers propel the majority of false claims cases, which are instances where claims made by an individual or company for government money are false.

Since the SEC programme’s inception in 2011, the securities regulator has paid over $250 million in rewards to 49 whistleblowers. Last month, the SEC paid a cumulative $83 million in awards to three whistleblowers.

In the UK, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 aims to protect individuals who make certain disclosures of information in the public interest. 

Ms Inman said, “The UK’s whistleblower protection scheme would be vastly improved if there was an Office of the Whistleblower in the UK Government that is charged with receiving whistleblower information, channelling it to the appropriate government agency and compensating those whistleblowers whose information leads to the imposition of a penalty or fine by a government agency, like the Financial Conduct Authority, or prompts the UK government to take legal action against a contractor, like Carillion, whose fraudulent practices harmed UK taxpayers.” 

Ms Inman said that countries including Canada, Namibia, and South Korea have whistleblower reward programmes, while Australia is set to implement a new whistleblower law this summer.

According to a recent news report in The Guardian, the EU Commission is also proposing a new law protecting whistleblowers, giving them special protected status and the right to legal aid and financial support, among other measures.

Ms Inman’s talk was organised by UEL Senior Lecturer Dr Constantino Grasso. It is available to watch on the Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Ethics Blog, which Dr Costa and his students run.