Whistleblowing is increasingly seen as a cornerstone of good corporate culture and governance, particularly in the financial sector, where an important feature of the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR) is the obligation to appoint a “whistleblowers’ champion”.
But the importance of whistleblowing goes far wider than the financial sector: effective whistleblowing procedures are integral to good governance and risk management in any organisation. It leads to the early identification of problems, provides an opportunity to address recurring cultural or practical breaches and potentially prevents a crisis situation escalating into self-reporting to law enforcement.
At Corker Binning we are adept at collaborating with employment and other specialist lawyers to ensure that individuals contemplating blowing the whistle on suspected misconduct by their employer are able to navigate the opportunities and risks presented by their situation. We also act for companies facing whistleblowing claims, where specialist criminal expertise is needed, advising on how best to handle situations where a report to regulators may be needed and how best to investigate the claims being made by an employee.
While there is no general obligation on workers to disclose wrongdoing, certain categories of employee – particularly those in the regulated sector – may have specific reporting obligations to their employers or regulators. The Employment Rights Act 1996, as amended by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, protects workers who blow the whistle by insulating them against detrimental treatment and being dismissed for making ‘qualifying protected disclosures’.
Our expertise in criminal and regulatory litigation is relevant because we understand the circumstances in which the allegations and material adduced by a whistleblower may constitute evidence of a criminal offence or a breach of a regulatory duty. We are able to advise the whistleblower about the wider personal risks they face: they will not benefit from an automatic immunity from prosecution where they are implicated in criminal conduct (although a statutory immunity from prosecution can be applied for in certain circumstances). We are able to advise whisteblowers in professions who may be exposed to regulatory or disciplinary action by their regulators or disciplinary bodies. We are also able to advise whistleblowers who require advice about lawfully obtaining information to support their disclosures, and how to avoid the commission of criminal offences such as securing unauthorised access to computer material and personal data, unlawful interception of communications, theft and fraud.