MuckReads Podcast: The Peril of Whistleblowing on Wall St.

by Nicole Collins Bronzan ProPublica, June 9, 2014, 11:50 a.m.

“Whistleblowing is not for the faint-hearted—and especially not on Wall Street.” So begins William D. Cohan’s latest piece for the Financial Times magazine, which profiles three men who spoke out against their employers and paid for it.

A rare figure in journalism—the investigative reporter with nearly two decades’ experience on Wall Street—Cohan joins ProPublica’s Jake Bernstein this week to talk more about the price of speaking up against the big banks.

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The article, through the personal stories of its protagonists, reveals big banks who muster their considerable power in the cause of self-protection—making the risk of finding and reporting wrongdoing so high.

It’s a strange dichotomy, Bernstein says, because “these banks all have systems in place where they’re supposed to catch all this.” And “it’s all supposed to be—at least within the bank—transparent, but all that seems to get subverted again and again.”

The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law was supposed to help prevent another financial meltdown partly by encouraging whisteblowers to come forward, but even that has shown mixed results, Cohan says.

Financial awards and protections of anonymity for whistleblowers—which detractors have labeled “hush money”—are a step forward, Cohan says, but the step back is that the public never knows what was uncovered or what bank was at fault: “Is this just, you know—again—a very clever tactic to keep these institutions from really getting the accountability that they need?”

Hear their full conversation on SoundCloud, iTunes and Stitcher, and read Cohan’s Financial Times piece here.