Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home


Toward a New Theory

Kate Kenny

ISBN 9780674975798

Publication date: 04/02/2019

Request exam copy

Society needs whistleblowers, yet to speak up and expose wrongdoing often results in professional and personal ruin. Kate Kenny draws on the stories of whistleblowers to explain why this is, and what must be done to protect those who have the courage to expose the truth.

Despite their substantial contribution to society, whistleblowers are considered martyrs more than heroes. When people expose serious wrongdoing in their organizations, they are often punished or ignored. Many end up isolated by colleagues, their professional careers destroyed. The financial industry, rife with scandals, is the focus of Kate Kenny’s penetrating global study. Introducing whistleblowers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Ireland working at companies like Wachovia, Halifax Bank of Scotland, and Countrywide–Bank of America, Whistleblowing suggests practices that would make it less perilous to hold the powerful to account and would leave us all better off.

Kenny interviewed the men and women who reported unethical and illegal conduct at major corporations in the run up to the 2008 financial crisis. Many were compliance officers working in influential organizations that claimed to follow the rules. Using the concept of affective recognition to explain how the norms at work powerfully influence our understandings of right and wrong, she reframes whistleblowing as a collective phenomenon, not just a personal choice but a vital public service.


  • At its heart are the compelling stories of men and women who exposed wrongdoing in financial services companies, and the consequences they bore…Kenny paints a picture of a financial services industry where rules are gamed, ethics are not discussed, and employees fear retaliation if they speak out…Kenny concludes that we should view whistleblowing as a social act and take collective responsibility for what happens to those who expose wrongdoing.

    —Sue Lewis, Financial Adviser


  • Kate Kenny is Professor of Business and Society at the National University of Ireland Galway. She recently held fellowships at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge. Her award-winning research has been supported by the ESRC and British Academy, among others.

Book Details

  • 296 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press