Our story timeline

Back in 1993, when our charity, then called Public Concern at Work, was set up, whistleblowing was viewed very differently. Whistleblowers were largely seen as loners, mavericks, and even trouble-makers. And the idea of corporate whistleblowing with staff employed in roles dedicated to whistleblowing, was, well, quite frankly, light years away.

Major disasters and scandals in the 90s, such as the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise, the Clapham rail crash and the collapse of BCCI bank over mass money laundering, led to exhaustive public inquiries. Incredibly, each inquiry revealed staff had been aware of dangers but felt they could not raise the matter internally. People did not feel it right, safe or acceptable to challenge malpractice, risk or misconduct in their workplace.

We wanted to show the link between whistleblowing and accountability and to break the culture of cover-ups and complacency. This lead to the creation of our Advice Line for whistleblowers which has gone on to help 40,000 people raise a concern. Today, our work is as vital as ever, and we support more than 2,500 cases per year.

Today, scandals, of course still happen, as we have seen recently with the Mid Staffs Hospital inquiry, and Gosport Hospital, the Oxfam sex for aid scandal, and sexual misconduct in Parliament, but there has been a definite sea-change in attitudes towards whistleblowing.  Through our work, we know there is still much to be done. We’d like many more whistleblowers to be thanked and commended, not condemned for bravely speaking up on public interest issues.

 

Timeline

2018
Oct 01

Whistleblowing law PIDA – Public Interest Disclosure Act turns 20

PIDA turns 20 years old but campaigners including Protect say whistleblowing law PIDA needs to be reviewed and updated.

Sep 10

2018 Public Concern at Work turns 25 and changes name to Protect

Whistleblowing charity Public Concern at Work turns 25 and changes its name to Protect, to better reflect the work it does supporting whistleblowers.

Mar 08

2015 Cambridge Analytica

British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica Ltd combined data mining, data brokerage, and data analysis with strategic communication during the electoral processes. In March 2018, The Observer reported that the company had acquired and used personal data about Facebook users from an external researcher who had told Facebook he was collecting it for academic purposes.

2017
Nov 17

2017 Protect speaks out against BMA on its advice to junior doctors

Protect criticizes the BMA over its confusing guidance towards whistleblowing for junior doctors over new contractual amendment to junior doctors’ training agreements.

2016
Sep 02

2016 FCA rules on whistleblowing procedure come into effect

The British regulator the Financial Conduct Authority recognised the value of whistleblowers, and implemented rules for large banks and insurers to support those individuals. These rules came into force to encourage a culture where individuals feel able to raise concerns and challenge poor practice.

2015
Sep 04

2015 Panama Papers

The Panama Papers taken from offshore Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonesca get leaked in 2015 by an anonymous source. The documents show ways the rich exploit secretive offshore tax regimes and include national leaders are among 143 politicians, their families and close associates from around the world known to have been using offshore tax havens.    

Sep 03

2015 Volkswagen emissions

The Volkswagen emissions scandal began when the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found Volkswagen had intentionally programmed its TDI diesel engines to activate emissions controls only during laboratory emissions testing.  

Feb 11

2015 Sir Robert Francis Freedom to Speak Up Review published

The review into whistleblowing in the NHS in England. The review took longer than expected because of a huge volume of input material: 17,500 online responses and 600 postal responses.

2014
Sep 07

2014 Luxleaks scandal

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) were shown to have helped set up tax rulings in Luxembourg that helped hundreds of large multinational companies such as Apple and IKEA avoid paying billions in tax to EU Member States harming public services across the continent. PwC employee Antoine Deltour was given a six-month suspended sentence for leaking the tax evasion, but this was overturned in January 2018 and Deltour recognised as a whistleblower.

2013
Jul 07

2013 US army soldier Chelsea Manning leaks military documents to Wikileaks

Disclosures included the 2007 Baghdad airstrike and a 2009 airstrike in Afghanistan and U.S. diplomatic cable and Army reports known as the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary. Manning was court-martialled in July 2013 and ordered to serve 35 years; but, in January 2017, President Barack Obama pardoned all but four months of the remaining sentence. Manning said documents were released “to show the true cost of war.”

Feb 06

2013 Mid Staffs Hospital

High mortality rates in patients admitted as emergencies, led to a full inquiry which began in November 2010 by Robert Francis QC. Many press reports suggested that because of the substandard care between 400 and 1200 more patients died between 2005 and 2008 than would be expected for the type of hospital. The final report was published on 6 February 2013, making 290 recommendations.

2011
Mar 09

2011 Olympus 1.7 billion dollar scandal

Two weeks after becoming Olympus President and CEO, Michael Woodford was fired for persistently raising concerns about an unexplained 1.7billion mergers and acquisitions. Woodford demanded an investigation into senior leaders in the company but Olympus refused his requests. Woodford went to the press and revealed the epic scale of the wrong doing.

2009
Sep 08

2009 Herve Falciani exposes Swiss bank tax evaders

Since 2009 engineer Falciani has been collaborating with numerous European nations by providing information relating to more than 130,000 suspected tax evaders with Swiss bank accounts— specifically those with accounts in HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary HSBC Private Bank.

2007
Sep 04

2007 Senior CIA agent reveals use of torture as standard US foreign policy – not ‘rogue agents’

John Kiriakou who lead counter terror operations in Pakistan after 9/11, gave an on-camera interview to ABC news, where he told the public about how a suspected al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah had been water boarded – and confessed that that this was standard CIA practice.

2006
Sep 01

2006 NSA’s first unwarranted public monitoring program exposed

Mark Klein, a retired communications technician for AT&T, revealed the construction of a secret monitoring facility, which provided the NSA with access to customer phone calls and shunted internet traffic as part of its monitoring program. Mark submitted an affidavit to support the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s lawsuit against the company.

2005
Sep 21

2005 30 years on, Watergate’s Deep Throat named

FBI’s former deputy director, Mark Felt, is revealed as the confidential- source, whose disclosures had forced President Nixon from office.

2003
Sep 04

2003 GCHQ whistleblower leaks email to press to blackmail UN on Iraq war

GCHQ translator Katharine Gun’s leaks an email to the Observer from the US government requesting help to spy on UN members in an effort to push for Iraq invasion. Arrested and charged eight months under the Official Secrets Act, her story, The Spy who Tried to Stop a War, is being made into a 2019 film, Official Secrets.

Jan 08

2003 WMD whistleblower unveiled

The Hutton Inquiry hears that MoD expert Brian Jones had exceptionally written to intelligence chiefs warning that the 45 minute WMD claim should not be relied on.

2002
Dec 30

2002 Time magazine Person of the Year goes to whistleblowers

Americans Sherron Watkins, Cynthia Cooper and FBI Special Agent Colleen Rowley are jointly named as Time’s Person of the Year for their whistleblowing about financial fraud on Enron and WorldCom and the failures before 9/11.

2001
Dec 31

2001 Whistleblower thanked

The Health Secretary tells MPs anaesthetist Stephen Bolsin is owed a debt of gratitude having been left no option but to go to the media about the death of 29 babies at a UK hospital.

Oct 01

2001 Enron scandal

The Enron Corporation scandal eventually led to the bankruptcy of the American energy company. Many Enron executives were indicted for a variety of charges and some sentenced to prison. As a consequence of the scandal, new regulations and legislation was introduced to expand the accuracy of financial reporting for public companies .

2000
Jan 31

2000 Dr Harold Shipman convicted of murdering patients

A judicial inquiry later found Dr Shipman had murdered 215 patients and observed that a strong whistleblowing culture would likely do more to protect patients than any other reform.

1999
Mar 16

1999 European Union accused of corruption by whistleblower

The European Commission resigns after an inquiry sparked by whistleblower Paul van Buitenen who drew attention to irregularities, fraud and mismanagement within the Commission.

1998
Jul 02

1998 UK passes ground-breaking whistleblowing law PIDA – Public Interest Disclosure Act

Richard Shepherd MP and Lord Borrie’s backbench Bill becomes the Public Interest Disclosure Act.  Hailed by campaigners as “the most far reaching whistleblowing law in the world

1996
Jul 02

1996 Backbench MPs ask Protect to develop law for whistleblowers

MPs ask Protect and the Campaign for Freedom of Information to develop, draft, consult on and promote a law to protect public interest whistleblowers. MPs Don Touhig and Ian McCartney lead.

1993
Oct 01

Whistleblowing charity Protect launches

Protect charity – formerly Public Concern at Work – formed to offer advice and support to whistleblowers.

Mar 22

1992 Matrix Churchill

Four directors of the British machine tools manufacturer, Matrix Churchill, put on trial for supplying equipment and knowledge to Iraq. Trial collapsed when its revealed the company had been advised by the government on how to sell arms to Iraq. Ministers fear the whistleblower may go public.

1990
Sep 01

1990 BCCI collapses

Auditors find millions missing at BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) a year before the bank collapses in a £13 billion scandal, BCCI’s auditors find a huge hole in the accounts

1988
Dec 12

1988 Clapham Junction rail disaster

On 12 December, a crowded train crashed into the rear of a train that had stopped at a signal killing 35 people and injuring 500. The inquiry found drivers who noticed an anomaly to a new signalling system, did not stop to report it. High standards of testing were introduced following the disaster.

Aug 17

1988 Maxwell Pension scandal

Media tycoon Robert Maxwell sacks and silences whistleblower Harry Templeton for repeatedly challenging his misuse of the pension fund. This comes out in 1992 after Maxwell’s theft of £400m from the fund.

1987
Mar 06

Herald of Free Enterprise sinks

193 dead Judge finds that the warnings from five whistleblowers had been lost in middle management.

1986
Jan 28

1986 Space Shuttle Challenger

Explodes on take-off NASA ignores a clear warning from Morton Thiokol engineer Roger Boisjoly about the impending disaster.