Despite Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning bringing whistleblowing into the public consciousness, many corporations appear to have no internal procedures to handle employee concerns, according to a global survey by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
The Snowden and Manning revelations generated worldwide media interest, while recent whistleblowing cases involving companies like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have proved the private sector is not immune. Yet a Freshfields survey of more than 2,500 middle- and senior-level managers has found that a significant proportion of companies don’t appear to have a formal whistleblowing policy in place, despite the legal and financial risks of an employee taking their concerns to a regulator or the press.
Investigations launched on information provided by whistleblowers saw GSK agree to a $3bn settlement after pleading guilty to promoting its drugs for unapproved uses, while a multinational bank paid almost $2bn to avoid prosecution following allegations of money- laundering. Yet almost a quarter of those polled (24.1 per cent) said their company has no formal whistleblowing procedure, and almost three in 10 (29.4 per cent) said their company actively discourages whistleblowing. This is despite almost half of those polled (46 per cent) saying they would consider blowing the whistle ‘if relevant’, and more than one in 10 (11.8 per cent) saying they have been involved in whistleblowing.
The survey also reveals that:
- the majority of respondents (64.4 per cent) would report a colleague if they suspected them of committing a criminal offence;
- more than a quarter (26 per cent) said they would go straight to a regulator if the wrongdoing wasn’t handled properly by their company; and
- more than one in five (21.5 per cent) said they thought the average employee would expect managers to treat whistleblowers less favourably.