The Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act was enacted with the aim of improving accountability, transparency and outright disclosure of financial information in publicly-traded companies. Whistle blowers are also protected by the same Ac t in section 1107. This brief essay explores a recent whistle blowing incident at the department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and relates the occurrence with provisions of SOX.
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One of the dominant characteristics of a whistleblower is that the individual is usually altruistically motivated. In other words, it is not possible to whistle blow against wrong doings in an organization without the element of motivation. In any case, whistleblowing is a risky undertaking owing to the underlying consequences.
Second, utilitarianism is a common characteristic of most whistle blowers. This refers to a state whereby a person values normative ethics more than hiding the truth. Hence, such individuals are eager to optimize utility within their areas of influence or operation.
Lack of suffering, economic wellbeing and pleasure are some of the key components of utility. Third, whistle blowers are not interested in changing their behaviors and that is why they act with an independent mind. They are self-driven. They also permit personal attitudes and beliefs to propel their actions.
In most instances, whistle blowers are well-informed, educated and intelligent individuals who are well versed with knowledge from a particular discipline. In June 2014, it was established that the Department of Veteran Affairs in the United States had been engaging in acts of sabotaging the views of staff members regarding its operations (Lichtblaujune, 2014).
For example, falsified patient appointment program had been rife at the department for a long. Individuals who would attempt to raise their voices concerning malpractices in the department would be severely disciplined or even released from their jobs. Both former and current members of staff at the department recorded the same concerns.
The fake scheduling books coupled with longer waiting times for patients were two major scandals affecting the reputation of V.A. as a result, several complaints regarding these improper practices have been forwarded to external whistle blower groups, lawmakers, unions and a number of federal watchdogs.
Due to the whistle blowing incidence, the Veterans Affairs chief was compelled to resign and investigations started immediately. The whistle blowers did not suffer any consequence. They only faced retaliation actions when they were still active in employment. The whistle blowers were indeed justified in reporting the malpractices at the Veterans Affairs department because the vice reflected wrong information on the operations of the department.
It aggravated service delivery to clients and worsened workplace relationship of employees. Citing doctor shortage as the reason for long wait by patients was just an excuse to cover up the scandal. Second, employees who ever reported the vice in the past were victimized. Tis implied that the action was not good at all.
Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the whistle blowers could have been protected in a number of ways (Lenn, 2013). For instance, section 1107 of the Act prefers a criminal charge for any public officer who victimizes a whistle blower. Employees who have been threatened with either firing or demotion at VA would not have feared reporting the on-going scandal because any person charged with the offence of retaliating would face a criminal offence.
The executive organ of the Veteran Affairs would have feared to face criminal charges leveled against them owing to retaliation attempts. In addition, the new piece of legislation would have compelled the management team of the VA to disclose all accounting information to the benefit of whistleblowers. Owing to such provisions in place, it would have been quite restrictive for the executive organ at VA to threaten, dismiss or even abuse the basic right of employees in the organization.
Lenn, L. E. (2013). Sarbanes- oxley act 2002 (SOX) – 10 years later. Journal of Legal Issues and Cases in Business, 2 (1), 1-14.
Lichtblaujune, E. (2014). V.A. Punished Critics on Staff, Doctors Assert. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/16/us/va-punished-critics-on-staff-doctors-assert.html?ref=topics