THE BLOG
12/11/2013 12:49 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

The Trouble With Being a Whistleblower...

To become a whistleblower is a tough decision to make. And no matter how much you rationalise what you are about to do, it's impossible to be completely prepared for the repercussions that come your way.

Like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning I too am a whistleblower. I though do not claim to be in such dire straits as them - Edward Snowden may well spend the rest of his life on the run from the American authorities for revealing the vast NSA surveillance program. And Chelsea Manning's fate for her revelations to WikiLeaks no doubt exists as a warning to other potential whistleblowers.

But I too am suffering because I spoke out.

I am a whistleblower because I have written about what really happened on the trading floors in the investment banks in the run-up to the 'Credit Crunch'.

For a decade I worked as an Internal Auditor on the trading floors of the biggest investment banks in the world. In that time I saw it all - the amoral trading decisions, the phenomenal pressures traders were forced to work under, the woeful trading and controls infrastructure, the price rigging and the frauds.

Yet like Snowden and Manning I didn't reveal anything you couldn't have already guessed.

It's not that much of a surprise that our own governments are spying on us. And nor was it a shock that some American troops are guilty of war crimes. And really, is there anything I could truly tell you about the horrors of banking that would surprise you now?

But even though much of what I have revealed in my book would not surprise you, I am now persona non grata for speaking out, even though rather bizarrely, speaking out happened rather accidentally. Like Manning and Snowden, I was pushed to a point where I just knew that to stay silent would be wrong.

My undoing came from a hobby I had at the time. For a few years I had an intermittent but secret pastime as a burlesque dancer in some cabaret shows in London. When I won a very senior promotion - on the back of a stellar performance in an extraordinary fraud investigation - a jealous female colleague found out that I did burlesque and reported me to the heads of the Bank.

Appalled, the Bank's management accused me of bringing the Bank into public disrepute and threatened me with dismissal. Now, let's just think about this for a second. This was October 2008. Banking itself was collapsing in the credit crunch as a result of its own greed, dragging the global economy with it. Quite how me doing burlesque could put banking into worse disrepute than it already was is lost on me. But that's what happened.

For a year I had to fight the Bank to keep my job. Eventually the Bank worked out that its position against me was prejudicial and discriminatory. Burlesque is a perfectly legal pastime and was not impacting my performance at all. And let's be frank, burlesque as a pastime pales in comparison with what traders like to do in their spare time.

But the fight with the Bank had been as bitter as it had been protracted so my career was over. No Bank likes a troublemaker. The Bank offered to pay me money to leave quietly but I was furious. And given that I was the best Internal Auditor at the Bank, they had picked the wrong person to screw over. I knew where all the skeletons were buried.

So I wrote my first book, Banking on Burlesque. In it I laid bare what it was really like in investment banking, how they worked, what lengths they would go to to prevent regulators finding out what was really going on - and what it was like to be a woman at the centre of it all.

As you can imagine, the biggest publishing houses were all grappling for my book - until the issue of libel came up.

Again and again, my book passed their libel tests but that wasn't enough. The Bank had told me there would be repercussions if I ever spoke out and this shook the publishing houses to the core - the fear of getting sued.

I tried to rationalise with the publishers, made the adjustments they wanted. I even tried to laugh it off. I mean, how great for publicity would it be if I got sued? But all to no avail. The standard response? "It's such a shame you didn't make all of this up; then we could have published it." Well, what does that say about freedom of speech?

It's all self-censorship - to silence yourself for fear of the repercussions of speaking out. I was so angry that so many cowered in fear of banks. An Internal Auditor I lived the 'no fear' ethos and fought every trader I had to investigate and so couldn't believe what I was hearing.

I suppose I was left with a decision, to either walk away from my book to return quietly and pick up the shreds of my career, or publish and be damned. But like other whistleblowers before me, it just didn't feel like much of a decision at all.

You HAVE to do the right thing. And it was RIGHT that I spoke out. You can't be silenced by fear. History has shown us time and time again where that leads. So I self-published Banking on Burlesque.

For me, the repercussions were immediate. When the book was published this summer, I was asked to leave the job I was working at. I was working on a contract basis for a bank in the City and they immediately saw me as a troublemaker, though nothing in the book was about them.

I haven't been able to get another job since. It doesn't matter that I am extraordinarily brilliant at my job, one of the best. It doesn't matter that none of my writings now relate to banking - I've just finished two separate screenplays about Emmeline Pankhurst and the murdered Russian journalist Anna Poltikovskaya. I have a black mark against me now I cannot possibly erase.

Perhaps you think I should have faced up to those repercussions when I made the decision to publish. But I did. But that still doesn't make it easier when you what you fear actually comes to pass.

I never asked for this to happen to me. I would never have written Banking on Burlesque had the Bank not tried to fire me for such ridiculous reasons. And I wrote the truth, a truth we all knew anyway. And that, perversely, is what has got me in this position today - with skills for a job in a sector I am no longer allowed to work in and a mortgage I can no longer pay.

I don't know how this is going to work out for me. I hope that I will find a potential employer who can see the situation with sympathy from my point of view. But all I've really learnt so far, like Manning and Snowden, is that no matter how right you are to speak out, the establishment will always win.

You can't beat the system.

Banking on Burlesque is now available in paperback, Kindle and on iBooks.