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Why don’t we trust whistleblowers?

I’m an accounting professor turned documentary filmmaker and I study how whistle blowing impacts fraud detection and prevention in organizations.

One day while working on a lecture for my graduate forensic accounting class, I found myself intrigued by the Wells Fargo banking scandal. The whistleblowers who attempted to alert the bank about the widespread internal fraud were fired.

I began to think. Historically, whistleblowers have offered important information that has shaped society, but why don’t we trust them?

I challenge my students to embrace the role of the whistleblower but I recognize how difficult a task this is.

In my TED Talk, I explore the dilemma faced by many whistleblowers; speak up and help the problem or speak up and be forever scrutinized.

In addition to teaching at DePaul University in Chicago, I directed and produced the award-winning documentary All the Queen’s Horses (currently streaming on Netflix), which explores the $53 million Dixon, Illinois fraud, the largest municipal fraud in U.S. history that was discovered by a whistleblower.

Here’s my 12-minute TED Talk:



Kelly Richmond Pope, pictured above, is an Associate Professor in the School of Accountancy and MIS at DePaul University. Her research on organizational misconduct, ethics, and fraud culminated in her directing and producing the award-winning documentary, All the Queen’s Horses. The movie premiered as the #1 documentary on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and Direct TV in April 2018. Prior to joining the faculty at DePaul University, she worked in the forensic accounting practice at KPMG. She received her doctorate in accounting from Virginia Tech and is a licensed certified public accountant.

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1 Comment

  1. There is a still a stigma about whistle-blowing and now some programs (i.e., Dodd-Frank) offer monetary awards that make it seem like a bounty hunter's award. Can we trust someone who blows the whistle ostensibly to qualify for an award? Might that person knowingly collect incriminating data on his/her employer, just in case he/she is discriminated against or retaliated for internally blowing the whistle?. The problem is one of ethics and corporate culture, both of which suffer in modern corporations because of the pursuit of self-interest mentality of its leaders. Change their hearts and we might change their minds about the value of whistle-blowers to the organization and society. If successful, there will be no need to blow the whistle going forward.

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