Payouts for whistleblowers possible says Home Office

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People who are witnesses for the state in cases of corporate crime could be in line for payouts, under a new government strategy to target serious crime. (Release)

The Home Office's cross-government proposal, the 'Serious and Organised Crime Strategy' states:

The Ministry of Justice and the Home Office will consider the case for incentivising whistle blowing, including the provision of financial incentives to support whistle blowing in cases of fraud, bribery and corruption.

The strategy, in part designed to review support for those who report suspected legal activity, is complemented by the creation of the National Crime Agency, which is modelled on the FBI.

The potential for payouts comes after an examination of 'Qui Tam' provisions in the US, which, since 2011, have allowed private individuals to sue, on behalf of the government, companies and individuals defrauding the state.

The prominence of white-collar crime has risen following cases like the London Whale.

A new division of the National Crime Agency, the ECC, will work on tackling financial crime with City of London Police, industry regulator the Financial Conduct Authority and fraud-tackler HM Revenue and Customs.

Audrey Williams, a partner at Eversheds comments:

We are entering a new era for whistle-blowers. What with Wiki-leaks, NHS revelations and the more recent US surveillance allegations, whistle-blowing is more prominent in our media than ever and can gain a global dimension at the click of a button. Such incidents demonstrate how exposed employers can be – not just in terms of heavy financial penalty but adverse publicity and increased scrutiny from professional or enforcement bodies.

Since June, employers have had a legal responsibility to actively protect against detrimental treatment or bullying of whistle-blowers. This change could start to engender much wider cultural change.

Having a policy, by itself, will not be enough. Taking “all reasonable steps”, by way of a defence, will necessarily involve bringing a paper policy to life and a message to employees that legitimate whistle-blowers will be supported – a step which in itself may give employees greater confidence to come forwards. In particular, employers must protect whistleblowers from repercussions from other employees.

...if the changes encourage dialogue in the workplace, this can surely only be a good thing.