Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Whistleblowing Can Pay Top Dollar, Or Not


Or at least that's the allegation made by the state of California, when a computer consultant who first alerted state law enforcement officials to a problem with certain Hewlett Packard disk drives, switched to assisting Hewlett Packard in its defense against such claims. Yahoo! News, among others, indicates that for his work, the erstwhile whistleblower pocketed a cool $27+ million. A hearing over whether documents related to the dispute should be posted on the internet is being heard this afternoon in a Beaumont court room in a related Texas case. You can read about it here.

The HP consultant made out significantly better than a former Warren, Michigan city employee who was awarded $854,000 yesterday in his whistle blower claim against the city by a Detroit federal jury. After a political shake up and his testimony to a grand jury, he lost his position and his former subordinate, now boss, allegedly told him, "'Your job is to sit at this desk and count ceiling tiles. I have orders to harass you until you quit or are fired." You can read the rest of the story, including the city's version of what really happened.

And a former Mattel whistleblower, has an even more tragic (from her viewpoint) tale concerning the rewards of whistleblowing. As the Economist notes, rather than an exciting tale of undercover investigations and great rewards, what she got was an unsuccessful lawsuit (now on appeal) and disillusionment that perhaps 2002 was not really the year of the whistleblower, Time magazine not withstanding.


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