Your former company is being investigated for issuing of misleading financial information. You have been implicated in the wrongdoing but have been offered immunity if you "spill the beans" on what really happened. May you "accept?"
The decision to bring to trial Arthur Andersen on obstruction of justice charges in its "auditing" work for Enron came after David Duncan former lead partner on the Enron file agreed to become the government star witness. He agreed - presumably in return for a lighter sentence - to blow the whistle on his colleagues. While appropriate and even laudatory at times, whistleblowing presents numerous ethical issues in Jewish law. If these issues can not be dealt with satisfactorily whistle blowing would violate the laws of tale bearing - an infraction that carries up to thirty-one violations of Torah law.
A precondition for engaging in whistle blowing is the need to have first hand evidence of wrongdoing either by personally witnessing or verifying the wrongdoing. Relying on office cooler talk or the grapevine or even strong circumstantial evidence does not grant legitimacy to coming forward and talking. Even once the facts are verified one must be certain that there are no extenuating circumstances which might explain or excuse such apparent wrongdoings. Furthermore the intent of the whistle blower must be to promote justice and eradicate evil and not personal gain or benefit. Only in such cases can we be assured that no "embellishment" of the story will take place. Such an intent is lacking when one views this as an opportunity to get back at others, to correct a perceived injustice or to stave off a harsh prison term. Thus "snitching" on partners of one's former firm, one that has fired you, cannot be countenanced. Of course such a concern exists in all cases of plea bargains and explains why Jewish law does not endorse such practices. Another factor working to limit whistleblowing is that of timing. One who is concerned with corporate wrongdoing must come forward upon witnessing the wrong and rebuke the wrongdoer privately. It is only if private rebuke does not work that one may consider public informing. Usually in the workplace one has many opportunities to try to nip wrongdoings in its earlier stages by first speaking to the perpetrators, and if necessary and warranted, their superiors. Waiting till the story has hit the newspapers and criminal prosecutors are investigating puts into question ones objectivity and motives. Even if the above conditions of certainty, motive, accuracy and stonewalling can be met a further condition is necessary, namely that the whistleblowers themselves are not guilty of similar wrongdoing. However, when they too are guilty of a similar infraction i.e. accounting irregularities, then whistle blowers are to be ignored. The notion that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones has its basis in Jewish law.
Assuming the above conditions can be met, it would seem that whistleblowing would then not only be permissible but mandatory. However whistleblowing for an employee can often have disastrous results ranging from being shunned to dismissal. According to many authorities Jewish law permits the passive violation of a prohibition of Jewish law if by being active you stand to lose more than 20% of your income. Thus a salesperson may keep quiet if he sees his boss occasionally overcharging a customer. Being in an environment where such wrongs are constantly perpetrated, even if you are not actively involved, will slowly wear down ones moral values and thus a new work environment should be sought. Therefore, if a company is making serious efforts to clean up its ethical laxity, the knowing employee need not risk his future employment by blowing the whistle. Interestingly, Jewish law places a greater onus on outsiders - who do not have to concern themselves with loss of income - than on insiders to come forward with damaging information. It appears to this writer that an independent auditor would also be bound to whistleblow even in the unlikely case of a client representing more than 20% of their income. That is what they are paid to do and any efforts to hide wrongdoing is a major dereliction of their paid duties. In this case the needs of society having access to accurate and timely information must override any loss of income the auditor may face. That is their occupational hazard.
Thus it would appear that in our case one must decline the offer - and suffer the consequences of ignoring early signs of wrongdoing. It was thus gratifying to hear that the jury members said that even without the testimony of Mr. Duncan their verdict would have been similar. Guilty!