An Overview of U.S. Whistleblowing Law

27 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2013 Last revised: 12 Dec 2013

See all articles by Shawn Marie Boyne

Shawn Marie Boyne

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Date Written: October 22, 2013


Although efforts to encourage whistleblowers to come forward date back to 1778, the United States has enjoyed a conflicted history with respect to whistleblowers. While some commentators pillory Edward Snowden, some privacy rights advocates praise his actions. Perhaps reflecting these conflicting sentiments, current protections in the U.S. are a patchwork collection of industry-specific legislation.

The current slate of legislation is largely the result of the confluence of recurring waves of media publicity exposing government fraud, the growth in government spending and involvement, and Congress’s attempts to respond to adverse publicity concerning government fraud. The succession of public crises running from Watergate to the wasteful spending in the Iraq War, to the collapse of the financial and securities industries have demonstrated that the government needs whistleblowers to help expose fraud and waste. As successive legislative attempts to extend whistleblower protections have demonstrated, reform “is usually precipitated by some crisis or new political movement that disrupts the preexisting status quo.” Ironically, in this fight to extend protections, Congress has often found itself at odds with federal judges who have repeatedly narrowed the scope of whistleblower protections and raised numerous hurdles whistleblowers.

Keywords: Whistleblowers, Fraud, Government Spending

Suggested Citation

Boyne, Shawn, An Overview of U.S. Whistleblowing Law (October 22, 2013). Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Research Paper No. 2013-38. Available at SSRN: or

Shawn Boyne (Contact Author)

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law ( email )

530 West New York Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
United States

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