Names like Daniel Ellsworth, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange have become forever etched in the American lexicon. These individuals, along with troves of others, have single-handedly been able to reshape the world as we know it. Each of these men came into possession of sensitive information in some form or another, and chose to disclose it to the public as they deemed it harmful to society in one way or another. Over the decades, the information that has come out thanks to whistleblowers has led to the disclosure of false pretenses for wars, racketeering efforts, fraud, and even the exposure of the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance apparatus.
Most of the more heavy-handed disclosures have revolved around government agencies and politics. These groups and individuals are typically accountable to the taxpayers as public servants, making their missteps all that much more egregious in the eyes of many. But whistleblowers are hardly restricted to the public and government sectors. For years, corporate whistleblowers have been bringing some of big business’s most flagrant infractions to light. This has led to entire companies melting down, as in the case of Enron, but has also managed to save lives.
Disregard for public safety is by no means a common occurrence in the world of big business, but there are numerous examples of companies cutting corners — sometimes at the cost of human safety and lives — just to bank a few dollars more in profit. These companies can run the gamut, from finance to manufacturing, energy production and more. Within day to day operations, an innumerable amount of opportunities are presented to sidestep regulations to cut costs or speed up a business process. As the public, we depend on people willing to stick their own necks on the line to inform the rest of us.
There have been many corporate scandals just over the past fifteen years or so. There have also been just as many attempts by the large companies to stop their secrets from hitting the limelight. Here are seven big companies that tried, and ultimately failed, at containing whistleblowers over the past two decades