The top five famous faces of whistleblowing

03 March 2012 By Lawyers Weekly

With the Federal Government finally engaging the issue of improving protections for corporate whistleblowers (see

With the Federal Government finally engaging the issue of improving protections for corporate whistleblowers (see full story), Folklaw decided to take a look back on some of the more high profile whistleblowers of recent times.

Allan Kessing

In 2007, Allan Kessing, a former Sydney customs officer, was convicted of leaking documents containing information about serious security breaches at Sydney Airport. He received a nine month suspended prison sentence. However, Kessing has always maintained his innocence, and after losing his appeal in the Full Federal Court last year he lodged an appeal to the High Court, but this was later dropped. He has, however, applied for a pardon from the Federal Government. Circumstances surrounding the investigation and conviction of Kessing have received widespread public criticism. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, one of Kesssing's most vocal supporters, told The Australian recently that it would be a "gross injustice" if the Government did not grant Kessing an immediate pardon.


Sergeant Joseph Darby

Darby is best known for blowing the whistle on the torture and prisoner abuse occurring at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003. At the time, Darby was a US Army Reservist who was stationed at the prison. After learning of the abuse, he provided a CD of photos and an anonymous note to Tyler Pieron of the US Army Criminal Investigation Command, triggering an investigation which led to the implication of several soldiers for violations of the Geneva Convention. Darby wanted to remain anonymous and was assured of anonymity, but his cover was blown when Donald Rumsfeld identified him during a Senate hearing.

Frederick Gulson

Gulson, former company secretary and legal counsel of W.D & H.O Wills (now British American Tobacco Australia Services (BAT)), famously spilled the beans on the tobacco company's alleged efforts to destroy documents that would have implicated it in health-related court cases. The incident arose during the McCabe case, in which 51-year old lung cancer sufferer Rolah McCabe sued BAT. Gulson signed an affidavit saying that, as BAT's legal counsel between 1989 and 1990, he had helped implement a document retention policy designed to "get rid of everything that was damaging in a way that would not rebound on the company or the BAT group as a whole". He also provided information alleging that in the mid 1980's, BAT had retained Clayton Utz to devise a document retention policy for all the major tobacco companies in Australia, which BAT had implemented. Gulson said he thought thousands of documents had been destroyed prior to litigation commencing in 1990. Rolah was successful in her at first instance, but the decision was later overturned by the Victorian Court of Appeal, and an appeal to the High Court was unsuccessful.

Sherron Watkins

Lawyers Weekly Discover

While perhaps not a whistleblower in the strict sense, Watkins is credited by many for having uncovered the infamous Enron scandal in 2001. At the time, Watkins was the vice president of corporate development at Enron Corporation. She sent an internal email to Enron CEO Kenneth Lay warning him of potential whistleblowers and pointing out that there were misstatements in the financial reports, although that email didn't reach the public arena for five months. However, she testified against the company before the US Congress in 2002 and she was named as one of three "People of the Year" 2002 by Time, along with Coleen Rowley (see below) and Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom.

Coleen Rowley

Rowley, a former special agent with the FBI, was responsible for exposing how FBI HQ personnel in Washington D.C. had failed to take action on information regarding a suspected terrorist who was later implicated in the 9/11 attacks. In a paper addressed to FBI director Robert Mueller, Rowley documented how FBI personnel had mishandled information provided by the Minneapolis, Minnestota Field Office regarding its investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was suspected of being involved in preparations for suicide-hijacking similar to the December 1994 Eiffel Tower hijacking of Air France 8969. She then testified in front of the Senate and for the 9/11 Commission about the FBI's internal organization and mishandling of information relating to the 9/11 attacks.

The top five famous faces of whistleblowing
Intro image
lawyersweekly logo