GlaxoSmithKline agreed last month to pay a $3 billion fine for illegally marketing drugs and bribing doctors. More than $150 million of this is expected to be paid to four former GSK executives who shopped the company to US regulators. If that sounds positively medieval, it’s because it is. In 13th century England, citizens were encouraged to take legal action on behalf of the establishment in return for a cut of any fines. The procedure was adopted in the US during the American Civil War in an attempt to curb corruption by suppliers of mangy mules and rotten rations to the Union Army. In Britain, the system was effectively ended in the 1950s. In the US it is estimated to have helped recover more than $27 billion in taxpayers’ money over the last 25 years.

David Wighton looks at the benefits of allowing whistleblowers to take a cut of corporate fines


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