My employer (3000+ employees) is a large software engineering company. The company is actually doing well (as per our latest financial report), but is canceling and/or delaying promotions/bonuses/etc. for engineers citing "financial hardship due to COVID". A number of our top engineers literally cited "bullshit" during the Q&A period in our quarterly all-hands meeting, and we've been bleeding talent. In order to stem this, rather than make things right, my employer banned any/all personal references for colleagues, even if provided on personal time on a private phone number. My employer is also requiring all employees to sign agreements stating that they will be fired with cause (i.e. no severance) if they provide a reference for a current/former colleague. They even added this clause to our "business ethics" (i.e. no stealing other people's lunch or insider trading policy) rather than our employment agreement form to force this on us, so it doesn't count as constructive dismissal or illegal contract changes or illegal firings.
I'm looking for a new job, but I've worked here 6 years, and don't have any other/older references I can use. One of the remaining "chief engineers" has been secretly encouraging employees to print off PDF copies of all their semi-annual performance reviews, which have input/praise from their boss, plus even a picture of the boss. He then redacts sensitive info from the PDFs, and gives them to use to use as "sealed references" (prints them, stores them in an envelope, signs them himself to prove they're legit reviews and not home-made, and even wax-seals the envelope). He's offered to provide the same service to me, absolutely free, so I don't get screwed by my employer. He even said: "you are allowed to use those reviews in a court of law, and you can use them outside of court too, if they're redacted to not include product names/codenames/etc. Your boss can refute his own words: it's him against himself."
Is it safe/smart to take up this offer? It's the closest I can get to a reference, and I'm in the final rounds of interviews with a few competitors right (some of which require references). 3 former colleauges used these so far, and got new jobs.
I find it odd that this chief engineer would do this, as he's one of the few professional engineers (RPE/PEng) in the company. Maybe he knows the company is doing something illegal/unethical, and he's daring them to fire him? Who knows.
Edit: I've backed up PDF copies of all my performance reviews and awards, just in case.