Jonathan Taylor, the SBM Offshore whistleblower, is suing the company and its top executives in a court in Haarlem, in the Netherlands. He says that the Dutch oil sector engineering company attempted to “destroy” his life. He is seeking “substantial damages.”
Mr Taylor’s whistleblowing has already cost SBM Offshore dear. His revelations, from his time as a lawyer working for the company – Monaco’s largest private employer – resulted in fines and settlements in Brazil, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US totalling $840 million.
Among his disclosures was the payment of bribes of more than $250 million to win lucrative contracts in Angola, Brazil, and Equatorial Guinea between 2006 and 2011.
Mr Taylor and his supporters have campaigned for legal protections for whistleblowers, who are often the targets of vexatious litigation, as he was in Dutch courts with a strategic lawsuit against public participation, known as a SLAPP lawsuit, which is aimed at least in part to burden the whistleblower with unaffordable legal fees. SBM Offshore’s defamation case against its former employee was withdrawn by the company before it came to court.
Then, famously, Monaco’s judicial authorities issued an Interpol Red Notice for Jonathan’s arrest, which saw him detained on arriving in Dubrovnik on a family holiday in 2018. It took a year for him to be freed from house arrest in Croatia and a total of two years for Monaco to withdraw the international arrest warrant.
Jonathan’s court case – whichever way it goes – will establish a legal benchmark for whistleblowers everywhere.
In the meantime, safeguards are so weak that Jonathan warns prospective whistleblowers to think very carefully about the potential consequences before disclosing information to the authorities and suggests acting anonymously.
FILE PHOTO: Jonathan Taylor