The term whistleblower was first coined in early 1970s by the American civic activist Ralph Nader. He used the term in reference to the then-prevalent terms like snitches and informers, which were generally regarded as derogatory. It is customary in the lamb culture to knowingly avoid wrongdoings in the interest of self protection. The silent majority is usually ineffective, compared with the vocal minority, who is courageous enough to fearlessly expose the wrong, even at the cost of personal well-being. A whistleblower is a person who exposes the wrongdoings of individuals, groups or organizational actions which are injurious to the safety and are likely to cause harm to the public in one way or the other. Notable acts which may draw the attention of the whistleblowers and prompt proactive response from them may include: abuse of power, gross waste or fraud, mismanagement or criminal negligence, public health hazard, general wrongdoing or a specific situation requiring a corrective and preventive action.
1. Francesco Vincent Serpico
Francesco Vincent Serpico was born to Vincenzo and Maria Giovanna Serpico in Brooklyn, New York on April 14, 1936. He enlisted in the U.S. Army at the age of 17 years and was stationed in South Korea for two years. He was educated at Brooklyn College and worked as part-time private investigator. He joined New York Police Department in September 1959. He is best known as a whistleblower for exposing the corrupt police officers. He testified, ‘Through my appearance here today … I hope that police officers in the future will not experience … the same frustration and anxiety that I was subjected to …’ On April 25, 1970, he contributed to a New York Times front page story to expose corruption in the New York Police Department.
2. Richard Marven
Richard Marven was a Revolutionary War officer, best known for his pivotal role in the passage of the first whistleblower protection law. The continental Congress was prompted to act following the whistleblowing of the third lieutenant Marven against Commodore Esek Hopkins, the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Navy. Along with a midshipman, Samuel Shaw, and some other sailors, the group accused the Commander-in-Chief of torturing the British prisoners of war. Marven, after being dismissed from Navy, filed a suit against Marven and Shaw. In response, the Continental Congress enacted the whistleblower protection law on July 30, 1778 by a unanimous vote and declared that it was the duty of ‘all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof” to inform the Continental Congress or proper authorities of “misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.”
3. Samuel Shaw
Samuel Shaw was born to John Shaw and Molly Hudson on December 1, 1768 in Dighton, Massachusetts and died on October 23, 1827 at the age of 58 years in Clarendon Springs, Vermont. For some time he practiced medicine and later on served from 1800 to 1807 as the United States Representative from Vermont. Along with Richard Marven, Shaw was instrumental to the passage of the first whistleblower law in July 30, 1778 by a unanimous vote of the Continental Congress. The law was enacted after Shaw, Marven and some other sailors accused the then Commander-in-Chief of the Navy for torturing the British prisoners of war.
4. Bradley Charles Birkenfeld
Bradley Charles Birkenfeld, born on February 26, 1965, is an American banker and whistleblower. He is best known for disclosing leading information to the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. In February 2009, DOJ announced that based on the information received from Birkenfeld, it had reached a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with UBS. A $780 million fine was imposed on USB. In 2008 Birkenfeld was found guilty and was sentenced to 40 months imprisonment. Bergenfield’s prosecution was condemned throughout the world on the grounds that it would discourage the financial industry whistleblowers. The IRS Whistleblower Office awarded Birkenfeld $104 million for his action as a corporate whistleblower.
5. Sergeant Joseph Darby
Sergeant Joseph Darby is the famous whistleblower of the most infamous Abu Gharib prison. In January 2004 he handed over two CDs to Tyler Pieron, special agent of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. They contained photographs of torture and shameless, inhuman abuse of the Abu Gharib prisoners at the hands of the guards. Although Darby intended to remain anonymous, yet Secretary of the Defense, Donald Rumsfield named him during a senate hearing. The disclosure was not received well by the community and Darby had to face a difficult situation. He said, “It violated everything I personally believed in and all I’d been taught about the rules of war … We did not receive the response I thought we would. People were ‘¦ they were mean, saying he was a walking dead man; he was walking around with a bull’s-eye on his head. It was scary’.
6. David Graham
FDA safety officer David Graham is best known as a whistleblower on a fatal pain killer. He disclosed that Merck’s well-known arthritis drug, Vioxx, had killed as many Americans as were killed in the Vietnam War. On November 18, 2004, he testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance about Merck’s recalling the popular anti-inflammatory drug, Vioxx, from the market shelf. He testified that, ‘I would argue that the FDA, as currently configured, is incapable of protecting America against another Vioxx. We are virtually defenseless.” In 2005 Dr.Grahm said in an interview, ‘FDA is inherently biased in favor of the pharmaceutical industry. It views industry as its client, whose interests it must represent and advance. It views its primary mission as approving as many drugs it can, regardless of whether the drugs are safe or needed.”
7. Cynthia Cooper
Cynthia Cooper graduated with an accounting degree from Mississippi State University and earned her Master of Science in Accountancy from the University of Alabama. She is a certified public Accountant, a certified Information Systems Auditor and a Certified Fraud Examiner. She is best known for her whistleblowing on the $3.8 billion fraud in accounting at WorldCom. It was considered the greatest accounting fraud in the American History in its time. In appreciation of her whitleblowing to expose the corporate financial scandal, she was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.
8. Sibel Edmonds
Sibel Edmonds was an F.B.I. translator who came into prominence after she was fired from her position following her disclosure of illicit intradepartmental activities and that her reports had been deliberately ignored before and after 9/11 and this endangered national security. She testified before the 9/11 commission, but her testimony was not included in the commission report. She disclosed the facts to the Congressional instigators and to the U.S. Department of Justice. Her disclosures brought her fame as whistleblower and she founded the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. In March 2012, she published her memoir, Classified Woman ‘ The Sibel Edmonds Story.
9. David Franklin
David Franklin is an American microbiologist and former fellow of Harvard Medical School. He became famous after whistleblowing upon the illegal promotion of the drug Neurontin, also known as gabapentin. In 1996, while he was an employee of Parke-Davis, he filed a suit on behalf of the American citizens to expose the illegal promotion of the drug for off label uses. Pfizer agreed to pay $430 million to resolve criminal and civil cases related to the case filed by Franklin. Franklin testified before the jury, which found Pfizer guilty of fraud. The jury awarded more than $142 million to the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. The drug was associated with many suicidal cases.
10. Jeffrey Wigand
Jeffrey S. Wigand was born on December 17, 1942. He is former vice president of research and development for Tobacco Company, Brown and Williamson. He came into prominence as a whistleblower at national level on February 4, 1996, when he appeared on the CBS news program 60 Minutes. He disclosed that Brown and Williamson had intentionally manipulated the blending of tobacco to increase the nicotine content in smoke. Wigand also told during the interview that following his disclosure, he had been harassed and received death threats.
A whistleblower is considered either an internal or external whistle blower, depending upon the source to which the matters had been reported. Julian Paul Assange is an Australian editor-in-chief and founder of Wiki Leaks, who publishes secret information received from whistleblowers. He said, ‘It is the role of good journalism to take on powerful abusers, and when powerful abusers are taken on, there’s always a bad reaction. So we see that controversy, and we believe that is a good thing to engage in.’