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The European Union just announced proposed rules designed to guarantee protection to whistleblowers who report infringements of EU law. The proposal requires approval from EU countries and the European Parliament before it can become law. Currently only 10 EU countries offer full protection to whistleblowers.
From the EU Press Release
Brussels, 23 April 2018
Recent scandals such as Dieselgate, Luxleaks, the Panama Papers or the ongoing Cambridge Analytica revelations show that whistleblowers can play an important role in uncovering unlawful activities that damage the public interest and the welfare of our citizens and society.
Today’s proposal will guarantee a high level of protection for whistleblowers who report breaches of EU law by setting new, EU-wide standards. The new law will establish safe channels for reporting both within an organisation and to public authorities. It will also protect whistleblowers against dismissal, demotion and other forms of retaliation and require national authorities to inform citizens and provide training for public authorities on how to deal with whistleblowers.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Many recent scandals may never have come to light if insiders hadn’t had the courage to speak out. But those who did took enormous risks. So, if we better protect whistleblowers, we can better detect and prevent harm to the public interest such as fraud, corruption, corporate tax avoidance or damage to people’s health and the environment. There should be no punishment for doing the right thing. In addition, today’s proposals also protect those who act as sources for investigative journalists, helping to ensure that freedom of expression and freedom of the media are defended in Europe.”
Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality added: “The new whistleblowers’ protection rules will be a game changer. In the globalised world where the temptation to maximise profit sometimes at the expense of the law is real we need to support people who are ready to take the risk to uncover serious violations of EU law. We owe it to the honest people of Europe.
The European Commission also issued a press release on Whistleblower Protection: Frequently Asked Questions
My former Antitrust Division colleague, Kimberly Justice and I have been advocating strongly for a criminal antitrust whistleblower statute; one that would not only give retaliation protection to whistleblowers but would provide a financial incentive for information that leads to exposure and prosecution of a cartel. See It’s a Crime There Isn’t an Criminal Antitrust Whistleblower Statute.
One objection I’ve heard to a criminal antitrust whistleblower statute is that a whistleblower statute would undermine the Corporate Leniency program. I think the truth would be quite the opposite. Once a whistleblower helps initiate a cartel investigation, the race would be on to be the first company to qualify for leniency. Also, the fact that a whistleblower could come forward may also increase Type A Corporate Leniency—leniency for a company that self-reports before there is even an investigation. And, in the ideal world (except for those of us who make a living from cartel investigations), the threat of a whistleblower would prevent a cartel from forming in the first place. This notion was expressed in a Reuters article about the proposed EU legislation (here):
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) said increasing whistleblower protection will help businesses.
“Companies have to see speak-up as something that would help them manage risks and avoid more serious issues such as violation of law, inappropriate conduct, crime or any type of harms,” ACCA head of corporate governance Jo Iwasaki said.
Thanks for reading. Bob Connolly