Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

When Whistle-Blowers Go Corporate

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

When Whistle-Blowers Go Corporate

Article excerpt

We are familiar with the whistle-blower in government. The prototype is Ernest Fitzgerald, the Air Force analyst fired by President Nixon in 1969 for disclosing cost overruns on a transport plane, and reinstated after a 13-year court battle.

William Safire's "Political Dictionary" defines whistle-blower as "a government employee who goes public with complaints of mismanagement or corruption." And, in 1977, the Institute for Policy Studies sponsored a conference on whistle-blowing, seeking to combat government harassment of those who exposed wrongdoing in their agencies.

There have also been anonymous whistle-blowers, using leaks as a form of protest against perceived wrongdoing. To department and agency heads - and the White House - these are particularly infuriating. A more recent phenomenon is the corporate whistle-blower, who, for one reason or another, is willing to violate the corporate culture of absolute loyalty as the price of success. In the past year, three big companies have faced embarrassment and penalties because of insiders who risked their futures to go outside. The most recent was Richard Lundwall, human resources coordinator for Texaco Inc. His duties included keeping minutes of executive meetings. To facilitate that, he said, he used a concealed tape recorder. When Mr. Lundwall was let go as a result of downsizing, he turned over some of his tapes to lawyers for employees conducting a discrimination suit against Texaco. The tapes, at least as first described, exposed what you might call a smoking gun of bigotry. More serious for Texaco was discussion of shredding records that might be used against the company in court. A grand jury has now been convened to look into that. The company's CEO, Peter Bijur, has apologized for the racist statements. Two officials have been suspended. …

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