Despite regulation, the financial industry offers opportunity for fraud and misconduct. While most of your fellow employees will not engage in illegal behavior, you cannot assume that everyone’s actions will remain above board.

If a co-worker’s actions, or company policy, seem to violate regulations, report it to your employer or investigators. As long as you report the perceived violation out of concern, you will be legally protected as a whistleblower. Do you know your rights as a whistleblower?

Whistleblower laws

A number of federal and state laws protect whistleblowers. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Act are two main acts affecting the financial sector. In addition to preventing fraud, these acts work together to protect whistleblowers. They make it illegal for companies to retaliate against employees who report on regulation violations, shareholder fraud and securities fraud.

Retaliation encompasses a variety of negative behaviors including firing, demoting or disciplining an employee for reporting a perceived problem.

What if the accusations turn out to be false?

Some employees fail to report illegal activity because they cannot prove that the company is doing something wrong. However, it may be impossible for an uninvolved employee to ever have complete knowledge of wrongdoing. You are protected from employer retaliation as long as you act in good faith that you are reporting upon possible fraud.

What should you do if you suspect illegal conduct?

If you suspect company misconduct, follow your company’s formal complaint system. Most companies have a policy in place that will tell you how to report misconduct. You can also speak with your supervisor about the issue.

Several governmental agencies also have whistleblower programs in effect including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice.

If your company retaliated against you after you filed a complaint, contact an attorney who can protect your legal rights as a whistleblower.