At the end of the day, company lawyers serve the interests of their company. Employers have gotten away with arguing that that disclosures to these lawyers are covered under attorney-client privilege, and a whistleblower going after a lack of action by the compliance team may not be able to use their disclosure as evidence. The New York State Bar Association Committee on Professional Ethics released an opinion warning employees of this dynamic, and laid out a script for those calling up the company hotline.
That is why author Stephen Kohn advises those with insider knowledge to contact their own counsel when weighing whether or not to go internal first. The fact of the matter is, most report internally, and most never get a response – they just paint a target on their back. So it’s almost always never good to report internally…one should really just keep quiet and speak with an attorney. If the company offers you a lawyer once they begin to be investigated, play along so you don’t stick out. Your independent counsel can advise you as to how to go about the investigation that you initiated.