Financial firms in the U.K. will have install “whistleblower champions” to encourage internal reporting of possible misconduct, under new rules introduced Tuesday by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).
The new rules require banks and other firms to put in place mechanisms that will facilitate internal whistleblowing by their employees.
The rules, which will take effect in September 2016, will require certain deposit-taking firms (banks, credit unions etc.) and insurers, to adopt certain best practices to encourage whistleblowing, including: appointing a senior manager to serve as their whistleblowers’ champion; adopting internal whistleblowing arrangements; and including text in settlement agreements explaining that workers have a legal right to blow the whistle.
Firms will also be required to present a report on whistleblowing to the board at least annually; inform the FCA if it loses an employment tribunal case with a whistleblower; and inform employees about the FCA whistleblowing service.
While the rules will apply banks, insurers, and others, the policy should serve as non-binding guidance for all other firms that it regulates, such as investment firms and asset managers, the FCA says. And once the rules have been in place for a while, the FCA says it will consider extending them to all of the firms it regulates.
“Whistleblowers play an important role in exposing poor practice in firms and they have in the past few years contributed intelligence crucial to action taken against firms and individuals. It is in the interests of the industry and regulators alike that wrongdoing is identified and addressed promptly. For individuals to have the confidence to come forward, it is vital that firms have in place adequate policies on dealing with whistleblowers and that a senior manager takes responsibility for overseeing these policies,” says Tracey McDermott, acting chief executive of the FCA, in a statement.
“These rules are designed to build on and formalise examples of good practice already found in parts of the financial services industry and aim to encourage a culture in which individuals working in the industry feel comfortable raising concerns and challenge poor practice and behaviour,” she adds.
The new measures follow from recommendations of the U.K. Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which called on banks to put in place mechanisms to allow their employees to raise concerns internally, and firms to appoint a senior person to take responsibility for the effectiveness of these arrangements.
In Canada, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) has proposed a new approach to whistleblowing that would compensate tipsters for providing information to the regulator that leads to a significant enforcement action; a policy that is modeled on the mechanisms recently adopted by U.S. regulators. The OSC has yet to decide whether to adopt this new approach or not.