Whistleblowers often risk retaliation in their quest to report wrongdoing. Retaliation can take the subtle form of poor performance reviews or another “just missed promotion,” or the more extreme form of outright firing someone. As the New York Times reports, Mr. Jason Williams experienced retaliation in the form of reduced pay and verbal abuse.
Williams used to be an executive at the Pacific Investment Management Company (“Pimco”), a huge money management firm, where he worked for over ten years. In Williams’ position as a high-yield bond portfolio manager, he saw a whole slew of misdeeds, insider trading, manipulating rates and values of holdings to scam clients, you know, all the most popular securities violations, being performed by senior management at Pimco. We’ve seen the banking and finance industry exposed in scandal after scandal as one who has done the math and concluded that violating securities laws is more profitable than following them – even if you get caught once and a while.
Williams was not comfortable with this. He reported the wrongdoing to internal compliance officers, who told his supervisor. Pimco allegedly undertook a review of all Williams’ concerns and found nothing. What a surprise.
But Pimco did find something for Williams, reduced pay and verbal abuse. Williams, dedicated to his quest of righting the wrongs he had seen, then reported the conduct to the Treasury Department, who opened an investigation. How did Pimco repay Williams for his dedication to ethical and legal business principles? Pimco fired Williams, only three weeks after he informed Pimco that he had reported the wrongdoing to federal authorities.
Coincidence? Not according to the lawsuit Willaims filed on March 5 in California state court – withdrawn only THREE days after it was filed. Now, Williams is in settlement talks with Pimco. Three days is a very short amount of time, especially when you consider how most lawsuits last for years. Sounds to me like Pimco was embarrassed by what Williams had to say in his lawsuit. They might not have been willing to give him the time of day before, but as soon as Williams files suit, putting his allegations in the public domain, Pimco reverses course and starts talking. Which leads me to ask – what exactly is Pimco so worried about?
I am very happy for Mr. Williams. Glad that he was able to achieve something many whistleblowers do not, getting his former employer to the table. Most whistleblowers aren’t able to do that – many suffer career ending retaliation with no recourse. In fact, whistleblower retaliation is on the rise: in 2011, 22 percent of American workers who reported misconduct were retaliated against while in 2009 that number was only 15%.
We need to work on changing how our culture views whistleblowers so that they will finally be recognized for their commitment to an ethical and moral workplace, instead of retaliated against and shunned. We need whistleblowers; they help keep our companies and government honest – its time we acknowledge this and start embracing them.
Have you observed fraud or scams costing the government money? Call Berk Law at (202) 232-7550 today to discuss your legal rights.