If you learned that a co-worker paid or received a bribe in connection with the awarding of a lucrative government contract, would you ‘blow the whistle’ and expose the unlawful behaviour internally or to the authorities? Would your answer change if the bribe-payer happened to be a high-ranking officer or public official with power to terminate your employment or put your career in jeopardy? Even in that situation, would a financial award increase the likelihood of your reporting?

The most obvious reason why someone would decide to blow the whistle is a basic moral disagreement with the wrongful act, and a feeling of ethical responsibility. However, no matter how strong someone’s moral resolve is, chances are that he or she may not report the conduct if there is a considerable risk of retaliation. Countries have adopted different approaches to deal with that risk. In some jurisdictions, authorities have put in place comprehensive whistleblower protection rules. Others have created rewarding mechanisms, allowing whistleblowers to collect a monetary award based on the amount recovered by authorities.

Overall, ensuring the legal protection of whistleblowers against internal and external reprisal or intimidation – even if he or she blows the whistle on the company’s CEO or a cabinet-level public official – is a crucial public policy to encourage reporting and increase the chances of preventing or unveiling corruption schemes. Given that context, this article reviews the status of whistleblowers in Brazilian law, and describes some of the related policymaking trends.

Apr-Jun 2015 Issue

Mattos, Muriel, Kestener