One of the leading experts on whistleblower protection law in the United States says that Canada’s “backwards” regulations may be allowing “corruption to flourish” and is causing the government to miss out on “billions of dollars in compensation.”
Stephen Kohn, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney, says that there is inadequate protection for Canadian workers who put their jobs and reputations on the line to reveal industry misconduct.
Ontario is the only province with a paid whistleblower program. In successful cases, it offers individuals between five and 15 per cent of sanctions, up to $5 million, for information that leads to a prosecution.
Although whistleblowers are offered protections such as confidentiality and anti-retaliation, they are not immune from prosecution and their reward is contingent upon the degree to which they were complicit in the misconduct.
Kohn says one of the “major defects” in Canada’s whistleblower program is that it caps rewards to $5 million, which isn’t enough for high-level executives to risk their careers.
“And one of the goals of these laws is to get the higher level people – we call them big fish – that are going to know about the big wrongs,” according to Kohn.
Kohn said it’s essential to incentivize insiders to come forward because the nature of white collar crimes means they are designated to be “undetected.”
Misconducts such as financial fraud, tax fraud, bribery, corruption and securities fraud can be complex and require a whistleblower to explain how they were orchestrated.
“But the insider is not going to step forward when they have nothing to gain and everything to lose,” said Kohn.
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