Do UK Regulators Have the Wrong Attitude to Whistleblowing?

The UK’s financial services system has recently been criticized for not doing enough to combat corruption, in fact, there have been calls for a complete overhaul of European laws to protect those who uncover financial crime.

The unfortunate reality is that whistleblowers are often viewed with contempt due to the negative connotations that still come with “blowing the whistle”, and the idea that they have somehow breached the trust of their company. In many cases it equates to career suicide, with the individual finding themselves blacklisted from the entire industry. So, is it any wonder that so few people actively come forward?

What must not be forgotten is that whistleblowers play a vital role for the greater good of society — often at their own expense. As an industry and a jurisdiction, we need to be doing more to encourage people to come forward with any concerns they may have about corruption or foul play, protecting them once they have done so.

In the US, individuals are awarded financial recompense if their testimony leads to a fine against a company. The UK should reconsider its reluctance to adopt something similar.

If the regulatory authorities are serious about stamping out financial crime, the onus must be on them to help support a culture where individuals can speak up without fear of recrimination — and we have a way to go to achieve that.

This was originally published as a letter in the Financial Times on November 30, 2018.

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