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The company I work for has to comply with certain regulations regarding the software it uses, one of the terms being that a certain number cannot be higher than 3%. If it is the company can be heavily fined. Regularly this number is at 30%-40% and I am asked to use SQL to cook the books and make it look like it is below 3%.

I don't know what to do, I don't want to do this any more, and the company would not listen if I voice my objections. How can I protect myself against future repercussions?

  • 15
    Is this still the gem of a company that chains the fire doors shut? You should check local whistleblower laws to see if you can help cushion yourself while looking for something new. – Myles May 20 '15 at 16:17
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    At this point I strongly suggest looking into whistle-blower protection and getting a lawyer. This could be of help: gov.uk/whistleblowing – David K May 20 '15 at 17:04
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    So is the fine a software license agreement where they are supposed to pay another company or is this a governmental regulatory body that a number is reported to? – paparazzo May 20 '15 at 17:51
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    Re the update: Contact a lawyer even more immediately regarding whether you can use that recording. You may do yourself more harm than good. This is beyond SE's scope, and you do not want to take any action (or inactions) based upon amateur advice at this point. You NEED an expert. The company already has theirs. – keshlam May 20 '15 at 20:37
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    You should consult a lawyer immediately. Depending on the regulations, in some cases knowing about an infraction could be considered as complicit in the action. – Jim B May 21 '15 at 4:50
74

Contact a Lawyer immediately.

You do not have a choice at this point you are stuck in a legal conundrum. If you change the numbers, and they get caught and you have not proactively protected yourself then you are going to be the one and only fall guy. If you try to go it alone you can expect to get similar treatment as Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden (on a smaller scale probably). If this number represents a health or physical safety danger to civilians you could be held personally liable to boot. So you NEED a lawyer NOW. Get a good one and realize that the money you spend on the lawyer is worth 100x its cost.

Find an excuse (even if it is you forgot) to avoid performing the task until after you have talked with a lawyer. From there you will have to determine your next actions with your lawyer. Realize that you are probably going to be out of work almost immediately, but better to be out of work and free than out of work in prison.

23

I would start looking for a new job immediately. If your supervisors are unethical (and potentially criminal?) actors regarding this regulation, they would have no problem acting unethically or illegally toward you.

Do not comply with their request -- you may be held liable for such action. Keep a record of any email, notes, conversations regarding this in order to cover yourself.

You might want to consult a lawyer, or perhaps contact the regulatory agency responsible for this, to inquire about whistleblower status.

While you make your inquiries, you may want to try to stall or avoid their requests as much as practically possible.

edit based on UPDATE 20/05/15 I am not a lawyer but I would not think it wise to collect evidence yourself. The knowledge of the conversation and the recording might be helpful to an investigator.

  • 3
    Some aspects of the business are kept hidden from auditors and my boss knows what he does is against industry policies. – Dansmith May 20 '15 at 16:23
  • +1 for the edit: employees in situations as these should provide evidence (if acquired legally). Let the lawyer(s) dig for more evidence/dirt. – Edwin Lambregts May 21 '15 at 13:05
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I'm surprised that this hasn't been mentioned, but if there are rules and fines then there must be some kind of regulator.

You need to contact that regulator - anonymous, at least at first, and ask their advice.

You also need to call ACAS now http://www.acas.org.uk

Although the top rated answer is fine (Contact a lawyer), I suspect that may well be easier said than done. Most solicitors are either criminal defence, specialise in something like family law or conveyancing or tend to be corporate focussed. I'm certainly not implying it's impossible, but I think the average "man on the street" will struggle to find a legal expert with the knowledge and inclination to get involved here.

With all that said - I'm presuming whatever it is you're discussing is either criminal or morally outrageous. I'm not saying it's fine, but I certainly wouldn't go full Snowdon over a company breaking some kind of contract with another company. It's certainly indicative of their corporate personality and I'd probably leave, but some scale is needed here and some fights simply aren't yours to worry about.

3

I don't want to do this anymore

Sounds like you've already done it. In many locales it's conspiracy to know of a crime but not do anything about it, actually taking part is even worse.

I'd move on ASAP, but be prepared, as soon as it comes out (and it will, it always does), you'll be pulled back into it even if you are working somewhere else. Best thing might be to alert the authorities and admit your part, you'll likely get more sympathy from a judge.

  • that's the thing I'm not sure if it is "illegal" as it is a civil matter. – Dansmith May 20 '15 at 16:22
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    It may not be strictly speaking illegal, but it it's serious enough that your boss wants to fake the numbers and keep it quiet, so still trouble when it comes out. – The Wandering Dev Manager May 20 '15 at 16:27
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    Not familiar with all the laws in the UK, but generally if a publicly traded company cooks the books to avoid fines, that can be viewed as fraud. – cdkMoose May 20 '15 at 16:37
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    @cdkMoose - The voilation may have been a fine. The coverup is almost always criminal, unless the perpetrator is really rich and powerful and has allies in the current administration. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 20 '15 at 17:18
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    @Denslat, this is why it is urgent that you consult a lawyer immediately. It is highly likley that anything involving cooking the books is illegal but you need to know for sure whether it is and if so what your options are to avoid prison. The fact that the bosses don't want to commit anything to paper is a huge red flag; it means they are protecting themselves and you will be the person going to jail when this comes to light. You need legal representation sooner rather than later. – HLGEM May 20 '15 at 17:36
-2

I agree you need to collect data. You may even go as far as getting a backup of the database. But that may be stealing. You need to consult a lawyer.

You don't have a lot of outs:

  • Refuse to change the data
    But this will likely get you fired and you have done it before so it provides you with little protection

  • Whistle blow
    The problem you have there is it may take you a while to get organized
    So you may be forced to change the data again just to buy time

  • Not the best option but maybe give them the SQL command to update the data but tell them you are not willing to perform the command. I know it is a fine line but technically you did not change the data. Even this is likely to get you fired and give them a chance to defend (put the blame on you). It kind of sounds like you are in a position of you need to whistle blow and have the element of surprise. But this may be an option to stay employed and just not be the one to change the data.

  • Getting a backup of the database can never be stealing, in the legal sense of the word. It might be unauthorized access to the data, it might be computer fraud, it might be a violation of copyright (depending on what's in it), or any other of a number of possibilities, but since the original copy still exists (even the original backup), it cannot be theft because theft (or stealing) implies that whoever originally held the object no longer has it. Theft would be if you, without authorization, take possession of the physical media the backup is stored on. – a CVn May 20 '15 at 21:09
  • @MichaelKjörling Really and if i worked at a credit company and took a backup of credit card numbers I did not steal anything. – paparazzo May 20 '15 at 21:11
  • Why would you be stealing anything? In such a situation, you would likely be dealing with data without authorization, could probably be charged with preparation for financial fraud, etc. (as above!), but in the situation you describe, exactly what does the credit card company lose simply because you make a copy of a computer file? Legally speaking, the term "theft" or "stealing" is very specific. Again, if you took possession of the physical media, that would be theft, but that's not the same thing at all as making a copy of something. – a CVn May 20 '15 at 21:16
  • Suppose you lend me (give me access to) a document. While it is in my possession, I put it in a photocopier and make a copy of it (copy it to a thumb drive of my own), before giving you back the original (telling you I no longer need access to it, and have the access revoked). What exactly have I stolen from you? – a CVn May 20 '15 at 21:17
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    @Blam - Exactly you have no way of legally taking possession of that db unless it is given to you by someone with the authority to do so – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 21 '15 at 21:52

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