Deciding to become a whistle blower comes at heavy cost. Tony Menendez is a good example of someone who wanted to do the right thing but quickly realized his actions would change his life forever.
Tony Menendez highlighted irregularities in Haliburton’s accounting practices in 2005. This would lead to a nine year battle with the company.
The Email that Changed Tony Menendez’s Life
The email that would change Tony’s life forever arrived in February, 2006. The sender was Halliburton’s Chief accounting officer, Mark McCollum. The email stated that “The SEC has opened an inquiry into the allegations of Mr. Menendez”.
Mr. Menendez had made complaints to the SEC about accounting practices in Halliburton but now the senior staff were aware of this. His first reaction was to wonder how they had found out this information about his contact with the SEC. He left the office and notified his wife about the situation.
Fighting against Halliburton
His next move was to find a lawyer who could help him. He contacted an attorney called Philip Hilder who deals with whistle blowers. Hilder told him not to talk to anyone about his whistle blowing activities until he met him. When they met, Tony was told about the struggle that took place with other clients and the corporations they reported for illegal activities.
The personal lives of whistle blowers are easily destroyed when they take on large corporations. Despite this, Menendez believed he was doing the right thing and would prevail against Halliburton.
It wasn’t long after he landed his dream job that he realized that something was wrong and his new employers were breaking many accounting rules. He advised the company to change some of their practices and at first other accounting executives agreed with this. However, the problems continued and he was unsure about how to address them. Eventually Menendez made a confidential complaint to the SEC.
After making the complaint, nothing happened for a few months. However rumor about the SEC started to emerge. Once it was revealed that Menendez had spoken to the SEC, the email from McCollum was sent out to staff stating that “the SEC is investigating Mr. Menendez’s complaints”. This was a way to label Menendez as a traitor to the company. Straight away the content of this email changed the way fellow staff treated Menendez and he began to feel more and more isolated. Friends could no longer be seen with him.
An external inquiry was then set up but Menendez was not included. Other events signaled that Menendez was up against more than just his employer. In 2006 Halliburton was cleared of any wrongdoing. Menendez decided to meet the SEC once again. In September 2007 he brought Halliburton to court for the intimidation which occurred after he complained to the SEC. However, Halliburton won the case. The judge even mentioned that he was not surprised fellow work mates were shunning Menendez because he was a whistle blower.
Tony Menendez still felt he was right. However events were taking their toll and he once said “I was fighting for my livelihood, my family, my credibility. For the rest of my life. This would have been a death sentence for my future”. He then decided to represent himself. Eventually in 2011he had a legal victory after going through an appeals process and was awarded a token sum of $30,000 for being proven right about his complaints but no penalties were given to Halliburton by the SEC.
Menendez is now a GM Executive. Unlike many whistle blowers he had a certain amount of success but having the courage to complain about the wrongdoings of his employers came at a cost.