Whistleblowers take big risks to uncover wrongdoing at banks, other firms and in the public sector, and should be rewarded for their bravery, MP John Mann told City A.M.
MBEs and OBEs would show society’s thanks for their services, said Labour MP Mann, who sits on the influential Treasury Select Committee (TSC).
“Giving honours would signify we appreciate what they are doing,” he said, speaking after a whistleblower leaked evidence that HSBC’s private bank in Switzerland facilitated tax evasion. “Similarly a financial incentive, if it would save us as taxpayers vast amounts of money, is worth doing. We give rewards to people who find other criminals, so the same approach could work here.”
Fellow TSC member Mark Garnier does not want to pay whistleblowers, but instead wants to give them more support at work.
“This is about empowering the front line staff to push back on standards,” the Conservative MP said.
“You need front line staff to give products and incentive schemes a sniff test, and turn round and say to managers if something feels wrong.”
“If they are threatened with sacking, then it is down to unions to help them push back against pressure to mis-sell. We need that dynamic from the bottom, not just from the top.”
Bosses from HM Revenue and Customs will face a separate group of MPs from the Public Accounts Committee tomorrow, over its handling of the HSBC scandal.
HMRC has “got to get acting. All the other countries have got much more money in than we have,” PAC chair Margaret Hodge MP told City A.M.
“We’ve only prosecuted one person – I don’t know what it takes to get tax cheats in front of the courts.”
She said she would like to bring HSBC’s bosses to answer questions in parliament, but that there is too little time left before the election.
THE MIXED FATES OF WHISTLEBLOWERS
- Whistleblowers’ receptions can be wildly varying, depending on where and how they report wrongdoing.
- If a complaint to regulators comes to nothing and the whistleblower is identified, they could lose their job and career.
- To make up for those risks, in some countries like the US, regulators can pay big rewards for co-operation.
- The HSBC whistleblower is a French-Italian computer engineer called Herve Falciani. Although he has helped tax authorities regain hundreds of millions of pounds, he has not received a bounty – the UK does not offer them at all – and Swiss prosecutors want to chase him for breaking secrecy rules.
- By contrast a whistleblower who helped US authorities prosecute another Swiss bank UBS was awarded $104m by the Internal Revenue Service in 2012.
- But investigators also said Bradley Birkenfeld was holding information back, so jailed him for 30 months.
- Other US authorities also give rewards. The Securities and Exchanges Commission typically offers between 10 and 30 per cent of large fines to whistleblowers.