Cautionary Tales – Whistleblower on the 28th Floor

30th April, 2021

Blowing the whistle on wrongdoing risks your job, your friends and even your life. So why do it?

Financial expert Ray Dirks (played by Jeffrey Wright) exposed one of the biggest corporate crimes of all time – and yet he was the one who ended up in front of the Supreme Court.

Whistleblowers often face intimidation from those they bring to justice, but also face hostility from their co-workers, new employers, the authorities and even the public. Why are we suspicious of “tattletales” and what can we do to make vital whistleblowing easier?

Cautionary Tales is written by me, Tim Harford, with Andrew Wright. It is produced by Ryan Dilley and Marilyn Rust.

The sound design and original music is the work of Pascal Wyse. Julia Barton edited the scripts.

Thanks to the team at Pushkin Industries, Mia Lobel, Jacob Weisberg, Heather Fain, Jon Schnaars, Carly Migliori, Eric Sandler, Emily Rostek, Maggie Taylor, Daniella Lakhan and Maya Koenig.

[Apple] [Spotify] [Stitcher]

Further reading and listening

The classic accounts of the Equity Funding case are The Great Wall Street Scandal by Leonard Gross and Raymond Dirks, and The Impossible Dream: The Equity Funding Story; The Fraud of the Century. By Ronald L. Soble and Robert E. Dallos.

Kate Kenny’s book is Whistleblowing: Towards a New Theory, which contains a number of first-hand accounts from whistleblowers, as does her and her academic colleagues’ website Other sources include contemporary media reports from CNN, CBS, The Guardian, FT Adviser, the Sydney Morning Herald, and an interview with Martin Woods on KYC360.

Piero Bocchiaro, Philip G. Zimbardo & Paul A. M. Van Lange, 2011, To defy or not to defy: An experimental study of the dynamics of disobedience and whistle-blowing.

DYCK, A., MORSE, A. and ZINGALES, L. (2010), Who Blows the Whistle on Corporate Fraud?. The Journal of Finance, 65: 2213-2253.

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