Over the weekend, before Edward Snowden outed himself, a frantic hunt was on for the insider who leaked NSA phone and internet spying documents to the Guardian and the Washington Post.
‘He’s no hero,’ a senior law enforcement source told ABC News. ‘It’s completely reckless and illegal.’
President Obama himself said, ‘I don’t welcome leaks.’
But wait a minute. Doesn’t the government pay huge rewards to corporate leakers?
Isn’t that what’s known as the SEC whistleblower reward program?
You know, the one that pays trusted private-sector employees to steal top secret internal corporate material and turn it over to the U.S. government. The program that destroys attorney-client privilege and confidentiality inside companies. That puts corporate brass on the public defensive for every word spoken in private.
Leaks from inside the government, the president says, harm national security. Corporate officers have long said leaks destroy trust, camaraderie, and a healthy working environment. Corporate leaks can even threaten a company’s existence by hurting its competitive advantage and ability to make a profit.
For government whistleblowers, a good outcome is a relatively short prison sentence. That’s true even for blowing the whistle on behavior that probably violates some important part of the Constitution, which the Supreme Court still believes is the law of the land.
But while the feds are hunting government leakers, blowing the whistle to the same feds about FCPA and other securities law violations can make you mega-rich. Powerball-sized paydays await corporate whistleblowers, courtesy of Uncle Sam.
The lesson? Whistleblowers are great, except when they’re my whistleblowers.