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Masaki Iwasaki, Reward Whistleblowers Who Expose Environmental Crimes (2024)

아태법
2024-05-24
조회수 57

Masaki Iwasaki , ''Reward Whistleblowers Who Expose  Environmental Crimes'', Nature Human Behaviour, Vol.8 (3) (2024.1), pp.404-405 .


Environmental crimes — including the illegal harvesting and trafficking of timber, minerals, animals and fish, as well as the illegal disposal of chemicals — now constitute the fourth-largest crime sector in the world, and are growing at a pace two to three times that of the global economy. To deter such environmental crimes, national authorities and international organizations have expressed intentions to strengthen law enforcement. For example, the European Union plans to revise its Environmental Crime Directive to increase criminal sanctions for companies and individuals and expand the types of crimes that are defined as environmental crimes. However, it is doubtful whether such common approaches adopted by many countries will provide sufficient deterrence against environmental crimes. In the practice of environmental crime, it is extremely difficult to detect illegal acts and prove causation and damage. Therefore, unless authorities improve their capabilities in investigation, prosecution and court processes, substantial improvements in deterrence are unlikely.

Against this backdrop, whistleblowers complement the limited human and financial resources of regulatory authorities. Numerous cases of environmental crimes have been revealed through whistleblowing. For instance, in 2016, Princess Cruise Lines Ltd agreed to pay a US $40 million fine to US authorities for intentional ocean pollution and its cover-up — the largest criminal penalty for vessel pollution at that time. Whistleblowing by the company’s engineer led to the detection of this incident. Crimes on ships — which are often known only to a limited number of employees, such as engineers — are increasingly being detected through whistleblowing in the USA.

Whistleblowers often face various retaliations from their organizations, such as dismissal and harassment. Many countries have whistleblower-protection laws to shield whistleblowers from such retaliations1. However, these legal protections are often insufficient. Therefore, some countries have additionally adopted policies to provide financial rewards to individuals who report certain types of crimes to the authorities.

The USA has been the most active in using whistleblower rewards for crime detection, and currently possesses several whistleblower reward programmes. Among them, a notable new programme is the Securities and Exchange Commission’s whistleblower programme under the Dodd–Frank Act of 2010. Qualified whistleblowers can receive 10% to 30% of the monetary sanctions (of over $1 million) collected from violators as rewards. The programme has awarded individuals approximately $1.3 billion in 328 awards so far. In the environmental sector, the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal and state agencies can impose fines and seek damages for violations under various laws. However, environmental laws that provide financial rewards to whistleblowers are limited to a few (including the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships and wildlife protection laws such as the Lacey Act). Even in the USA (a leading country in whistleblower rewards), there is room for further use of whistleblowing in environmental governance. This could include expanding the eligibility for rewards to cover cases that are not currently included, such as reporting vehicle emissions violations under the Clean Air Act or exposing unlawful discharges into waterways under the Clean Water Act.

Despite the effectiveness of whistleblowing in detecting crimes and the potential for monetary rewards to promote it, many countries have rejected the idea of whistleblower rewards owing to various concerns (including false reporting and interference with internal governance in organizations). However, most of these concerns are not based on scientific evidence. Even if there is some validity to the concerns, they can mostly be resolved by appropriately designing laws on the basis of the findings of social science.

One major concern often cited is the motivation crowding-out effect. This effect — studied in psychology and economics — suggests that providing extrinsic incentives to promote an activity can undermine intrinsic motivation, and potentially lead to a decrease in the activity (contrary to the intention). Opponents of whistleblower rewards are concerned that providing rewards will impair prosocial motivation (one of the main drivers for whistleblowers3) and thereby inhibit whistleblowing.

A recent empirical study, using data on recycling activities, discovered that the relationship between extrinsic rewards and prosocial behaviour might be S-shaped, which suggests that the strongest effect of motivation crowding out (leading to a decrease in prosocial behaviour) occurs in the intermediate range in which rewards are neither low nor high. Although it remains to be seen how applicable these results are to whistleblowing, there is a possibility that relatively modest reward amounts can promote prosocial behaviour. As the optimal reward amount may vary depending on the crime in question, authorities need to carefully consider the amount of whistleblower rewards for environmental crimes before introducing reward programmes. Although this is not a simple task, it is worthwhile given the social benefits of the natural environment that can be preserved through whistleblowing.

Whistleblowers are invaluable guardians of our natural environment, and complement law enforcement. Authorities in each country should seriously consider legal policies that not only ensure their protection but also actively reward their contributions.






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