Germany’s financial watchdog extends support for whistleblowers

Hayley Kirton
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The small number of specially trained staff will protect whistleblowers' identities (Source: Getty)

Germany's financial watchdog has given a boost to whistleblowers this weekend by launching a system for those who want to report the wrongdoings of their companies.

The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority's (Bafin) new system is aimed at employees or others who are closely linked to an organisation who wish to disclose violations of supervisory rules.

Bafin's new unit will accept information through mail, email, via telephone or face-to-face.

The small number of specially trained staff responsible for running the scheme will endeavour to protect whistleblowers' identities, not disclosing them to anybody who is not working inside the unit.

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The treatment of whistleblowers has become topical as of late. Last week, two ex-employees of an accountancy firm in Luxembourg were convicted for leaking their firm's data. The data they obtained revealed how hundreds of large corporates had seemingly funnelled their businesses through Luxembourg to slash their tax bills, and the information went on to form the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists' (ICIJ) Luxembourg Leaks project.

ICIJ director Gerard Ryle said that the men involved should have been "applauded and thanked for their roles in bringing the issue of corporate tax avoidance to the public's attention, not dragged through the courts and punished".

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Meanwhile, an unnamed person claiming to have been behind the leak of the Panama Paper's data from law firm Mossack Fonseca issued a statement in May saying that they would happily share what they knew with the relevant authorities, provided they were not prosecuted as a result.

"Legitimate whistleblowers who expose unquestionable wrongdoing, whether insiders or outsiders, deserve immunity from government retribution, full stop," the statement read. "Until governments codify legal protections for whistleblowers into law, enforcement agencies will simply have to depend on their own resources or on-going global media coverage for documents."

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