Moins de 24 heures après l’épreuve, notre professeur d’anglais, M. Fréguin, vous propose un corrigé de l’épreuve d’anglais du concours commun des IEP. Si le thème du sujet n’était pas surprenant en soi, la source en revanche nous a étonné. Les articles utilisés pour construire l’épreuve sont généralement tirés du Guardian, du New York Times, du Washington Post, de The Independant, et surtout de The Economist. On ne s’attendait pas à un article du Rolling Stone.
Le texte proposé
A Whistleblower’s Horror Story
BY MATT TAIBBI February 18, 2015
This is the age of the whistleblower. From Chelsea Manning to Edward Snowden to (…) ex-HSBC employee Hervé Falciani, whistleblowers are becoming to this decade what rock stars were to the Sixties — pop culture icons, global countercultural heroes.
But one of America’s ugliest secrets is that our own whistleblowers often don’t do so well after the headlines fade and cameras recede. The ones who don’t end up in jail like Manning, or in exile like Snowden, often still go through years of harassment and financial hardship. (…)
Two years ago this month, Winston was being celebrated in the news as a hero. He’d blown the whistle on Countrywide Financial, the bent mortgage lender that one could plausibly argue nearly blew up the global economy in the last decade with its reckless subprime lending practices. (…)
But today, Winston is tasting the sometimes-extreme downside of being a whistleblower in modern America. (…) He says he’s spent over a million dollars fighting Countrywide (and the firm that acquired it, Bank of America) in court. At first, that fight proved a good gamble, as a jury granted him a multi-million-dollar award for retaliation and wrongful termination.
But after Winston won that case, an appellate judge not only wiped out that jury verdict, but allowed Bank of America to counterattack him with a vengeance.
Last summer, the bank vindictively put a lien on Winston’s house (one he’d bought, ironically, with a Countrywide mortgage). The bank eventually beat him for nearly $98,000 in court costs.
That single transaction means a good guy in the crisis drama, Winston, had by the end of 2014 paid a larger individual penalty than virtually every wrongdoer connected with the financial collapse of 2008. (…)
Yet Winston would likely bear all of this more easily were it not for bitterness over the fact that the sacrifices of whistleblowers like himself have too often resulted in dead ends or worse in recent years.
In the finance sector, many of the biggest cooperators have seen their evidence disappeared into cushy settlement deals that let corporate wrongdoers off the hook with negligible fines. (…)
This is a serious problem, given that anyone considering coming forward is usually paying at least some attention to how the government has dealt with other cooperators. (…) « What I worry about, » says Winston today, « is that someone is going to see wrongdoing, and then see what’s happened to people like me, and decide it’s not worth it. »
Winston joined Countrywide, which was booming financially at the time, in 2005.
Unbeknownst to him, his new firm was at the forefront of a mass movement to pump the global economy full of fraudulent, born-to-lose subprime loans, a movement destined to rapidly overinflate the global economy with debt and cause a catastrophic recession. (…)
Winston tried to sound the alarm within the company. He thought he was doing the firm a favor, that the bosses somehow just didn’t realize their mistake.
As it turned out, Countrywide execs knew exactly what they were doing, and Winston quickly went the way of most whistleblowers, losing his job when Bank of America acquired the firm in 2008. (…)
« I was offered a lot of money to make it all go away, quietly, but I thought to myself, do I want to be that person? » he said. « And I realized that I couldn’t take it. I needed to see someone held accountable. » (…)
But four years later, we’re still waiting for the first criminal conviction against any individual for crisis-era corruption. (…)
What we’ve seen instead is a series of cash deals with the most corrupt companies. (…) Winston’s old company got one of the best deals. Last summer, Bank of America — now responsible for all of Countrywide’s liability — was allowed to buy its way out of years of fraud and other abuses with a « historic » $17 billion settlement. (…)
« I just can’t believe, after all of this, that it all gets swept under the rug, » he said, shaking his head. (…)
Even the government’s attempts to encourage whistleblowers were misguided. Eric Holder talked extensively about aiding cooperators by making more resources available to them — essentially, offering them higher monetary rewards for coming forward.
But nobody in the financial services industry comes forward just for the money. The easy money is already there to be had, just by keeping your mouth shut. What Wall Street whistleblowers really need, above all else, is to see real cases made using their evidence, which is exactly what we haven’t seen in recent years. Otherwise, the sacrifices — which range from merely miserable to life-altering and catastrophic — aren’t worth it. (…)
The pattern of whistleblowers coming forward and seeing their information either misused or absorbed into pain-free cash settlements may push the next generation of potential witnesses in a more cynical direction.
« The number one concern is that it incentivizes people to do nothing, » Fleischmann says. « The likely thing people will do in the future is just quit. »
Winston today insists he would do the same thing, if he had to do it all over again. (…) « People won’t worry about it now, » says Winston. « But one day they’ll wonder why their air is polluted or their drinking water isn’t safe. And this will be the reason why. »
Corrigé de l’épreuve de compréhension
I) WRITTEN COMPREHENSION (8pts)
Read the article and answer the following questions
1) Using your own words, explain what the consequences of denouncing illegal practices can be for whistle blowers. (2pts)
Whistle blowers face different dangers after their revelations: being sent to prison, forced to live in a foreign country, hunted down by authorities or being under the threat of financial sanctions. They have a price to pay for their disclosures.
2) What does Michael Winston refer to when he says, « I just can’t believe (…) that it all gets swept under the rug »(L.57)? (3pts)
Michael Winston aims at showing that everything he denounced became useless because of the various agreements between banks and governments. The companies negotiated in order to avoid convictions for frauds. Abuses or misbehaviors are forgotten after paying huge fines.
3) Using your own words, explain what the American government has done to encourage whistleblowers to come forward and what else (according to the journalist) should be done? (3pts)
The American government has tried to attract whistleblowers by promising them financial advantages and by protecting them, which proved ineffective. The journalist thinks that the only solution to help them is to bring to court the companies responsible for frauds and use the evidence provided. If this is not done, we may witness a decrease in the number of whistleblowers and as a consequence face a lack of counter-power.
Corrigé de l’épreuve de synonyme
II) Synonyms (4pts)
Find synonyms in the article for the following words. Words appear in the same order as in the text but not necessarily in the same form.
– To disappear = RECEDE
– Careless = RECKLESS
– Vengeance = RETALIATION
– Unfair = VINDICTIVELY
– Comfortable = CUSHY
– To go unpunished = LET…OFF THE HOOK
– To lead = BE AT THE FOREFRONT
– To encourage = INCENTIVIZE
Corrigé de l’essai
III) Written Expression (8pts)
Write an essay of 300 words (+/- 10%) on the following subject:
Some consider whistleblowers as heroes of the war on corporate and government secrecy and corruption, others as self-appointed vigilantes in a futile and dangerous struggle to impose complete transparency. From your reading of the article and by drawing on recent examples in world news, defend and develop your personal position.
In today’s society, more and more people are keen on knowing the truth. The problem is that the more one tries to find it out, the more difficult it is to discover it. One has to add that sometimes it can even become perilous to let everybody know the ins and outs of an issue. Let us take the example of Edward Snowden. The latter decided to reveal NSA’s secret operations. His aim was to tell the public what was done against the people in the name of the people. Should this man be a hero or a traitor? Both indeed. Making people aware of the misuse or abuses of power is nothing « futile » or « dangerous ». On the other hand, in view of the protection and security of the nation, one is to admit that this behavior may prove harmful.
So we can also wonder if those protecting characters are ready to pay the price for their beliefs. Julian Assange and its famous Wikileaks group may be an obvious example of this. Forced to live in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June 2012, the Australian cyber-activist embodies the dangers of the struggle against governments’ concealing positions.
To conclude, we can say that whistleblowers and defenders of truth-at-all-cost are modern heroes. They are ready to take risks to fight against big companies or governments that often consider themselves above laws. If what they revealed were moral or legal, these revelations would be pointless. Of course they infringe security in some aspects but there is a price to pay in every battle. As the quotation says « People shouldn’t be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people ». The quest for truth is a never-ending one.