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George Vlahakis

Last modified: Wednesday, April 3, 2002

IU's Kelley School to host first international conference on whistle-blowing

EDITORS: While this conference is not generally open to the public, we invite you to send reporters and will make arrangements for phone interviews with conference participants. To arrange for interviews, contact George Vlahakis, IU manager of media relations, at 812-855-0846 or

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- What do Enron, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service have in common? The former energy giant, the municipal utility and the government agency each have had important problems recently brought to light by people known as whistle-blowers.

Two professors in Indiana University's Kelley School of Business have extensively studied whistle-blowers, people who -- often at great personal risk -- choose to disclose information about improper government or industry actions that are harmful to public health, the environment, the economy or others.

The Kelley School will host the first International Whistle-Blowing Seminar at IU Bloomington on April 12 and 13. Other sponsors include the IU Center for International Business Education and Research and the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions, with support from the IU School of Law-Bloomington and IU International Programs.

Terry Morehead Dworkin, the Jack R. Wentworth professor of business law at IU and one of the conference's organizers, said it will bring together for the first time top researchers from several countries to share their ideas, research and findings. Among the topics to be discussed are how various kinds of wrongdoing affect decisions to disclose information, the retaliation process against these often well-meaning people, and sexual harassment and whistle-blowing.

Among the conference participants will be social science and legal scholars from across the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia. It is expected to be the first in a series of conferences on whistle-blowing.

"Recent events have brought to the forefront the potential importance of whistle-blowing," Dworkin said. "Long before Enron's collapse, researchers throughout the world were investigating the use of whistle-blowing as a way to control organizational wrongdoing and promote the transparency necessary for good governance and an effective economy."

Dworkin was a contributor to the first major book on whistle-blowing, Blowing the Whistle: The Organizational and Legal Implications for Companies and Their Employees (Lexington Books, 1992), co-authored by the other conference organizer, Janet P. Near. Near is the Dale M. Coleman Chair of Management at IU.

Near's research has found that most employees who blow the whistle on illegal or unethical activities at their workplace are not disgruntled employees. She found that many tend to be exceptional employees who are well-paid, have worked there for many years, and are generally satisfied with their jobs. They usually are more interested in getting a problem resolved than in creating problems for their employers.

The following is a brief review of the conference and its sessions. The conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. each day.

Friday's sessions will include "Developing a Model of the Whistle-Blowing Process: How Does Type of Wrongdoing Affect the Process," "Prosecutors' Failure to Disclose and Other Lawyers' Failure to Whistle-Blow on the Prosecutor," "Whistle-Blowing and Bullying at Work," "Enron, Ethics and Whistle-Blowing" and "Can Organizations Learn to Self-Correct in the Face of Employee Dissent?"

Saturday's sessions will include "Whistle-Blowing and Perceptual Differences on It in Oriental Society," "Common Law, Common Mistakes: The Dismal Failure of Whistle-Blower Laws in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom," "Cultural Influences on Reporting Wrongdoing at Work" and "Sexual Harassment Reporting and Whistle-Blowing."

There will be limited room at the conference for other interested participants who wish to attend one or more sessions and possibly participate in the discussions. For more information on attending, contact Doris Dunigan in the Kelley School of Business at 812-855-9308 or There would be no cost to attend these sessions.