The importance of whistleblowers in a real world
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The importance of whistleblowers in a real world

Published on March 20, 2023 by Wilfred Peter

 

Who is a whistleblower?

 

We remember Edward Snowden revealing highly classified intelligence-gathering surveillance programmes run by the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK’s equivalent, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and exposing NSA programmes such as PRISM that collected private data of users from many well-known companies. More data was collected than the public was aware of, and Snowden termed this as "dangerous" and "criminal" [Edward Snowden – National Whistleblower Center (whistleblowers.org)]. This is a prime example of how someone (termed a “whistleblower”) can bring attention to unethical actions.

Whistleblowers call out activity in an organisation that is unethical or not in line with its values to senior leadership team or the whistleblower committee. Whistleblowers could be within or outside the organisation, monitoring activity and reporting wrongdoing to the regulators.

 

Why is it important to have whistleblowers?

 

A whistleblower’s primary responsibility is to call out wrongdoing within the organisation. Other responsibilities include helping the organisation to identify gaps and improve processes and policies. Whistleblowing can also help build trust and confidence in a company; by demonstrating commitment to transparency and accountability, companies can establish a positive reputation and strengthen relationships with stakeholders. The following are areas in which whistleblowers can ensure compliance:

Having a policy in place is not enough; companies need to walk the talk by conducting regular training sessions to ensure employee awareness.

 

Protecting the whistleblower

 

Whistleblowing can be risky, and many companies have policies in place to protect whistleblowers from retaliation. It is important to ensure strict action is taken in the event of retaliation, as this would help the individual in charge report misconduct to the whistleblower committee without fear.

 

Interesting statistics from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) website

 

Source: Whistleblowing quarterly data 2022 Q1 | FCA

The SEC recently published a press release issuing a USD $28m award to the joint whistleblowers who provided critical information on an SEC enforcement action SEC.gov | SEC Issues $28 Million Award to Joint Whistleblowers. This reiterates the importance of having whistleblowers internally and externally to flag critical information to the internal committee and the regulator.

From a compliance and ethical standpoint it is important that companies across the sector understand the importance of having a whistleblower and a whistleblower programme in place. Strong policy and procedure would instil confidence among employees to bring wrongdoing to the attention of leadership. This will highlight the transparency with which the organisation acts and gain the trust of all stakeholders.

 

How Acuity can help?

 

Acuity Knowledge Partners is an influential player in the global market, offering compliance expertise and a wide array of other services. We enable our compliance clients to manage increasing demands on their teams by providing customised managed services solutions, based on specialised skills and technology, and by delivering operational efficiency, resilience and significant cost savings. We believe our offering is even more relevant in the post-pandemic economic and operating environment, where compliance teams have seen a significant increase in workload in tasks such as trade surveillance, communications surveillance, distribution compliance and virtual client onboarding and transaction monitoring.


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About the Author

Wilfred Peter has over 11+ years of experience in compliance and Investment banking having worked for firms including State Street Global Advisors and HSBC. His expertise spans across compliance and risk sector, focusing on compliance reviews of marketing/advertising materials and social media contents. At Acuity Knowledge Partners he is part of the central compliance team and specializes in marketing material review and social media reviews. Wilfred is a graduate (Bachelors of commerce) and hold a degree from St Joseph’s College of Commerce Bengaluru.

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