Legal protection of whistle-blowers

In the Netherlands a legislative proposal regarding the protection of whistle-blowers is nearing completion.

ECON recommendations 2015

In the meantime there are also European initiatives in that field. One of the recommendations of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON) of the European Parliament in a recent report is to “table a proposal for legal protection of whistle-blowers“.

In the introduction to the report ECON says:

(vii) whereas the current Union-wide legal framework to protect whistleblowers is insufficient, and there exists significant variation between the ways in which different Member States provide protection for whistleblowers; whereas in the absence of such protection, those employees who hold vital information will understandably be reluctant to come forward and therefore that information will not be made available; whereas since whistleblowers helped to mobilise public attention on the issue of unfair taxation, Member States should consider measures that will protect such activity; whereas it would therefore be appropriate to offer Union-wide protection for whistleblowers who report suspected misconduct, wrongdoing, fraud or illegal activity to national or European authorities or, in cases of persistently unaddressed misconduct, wrongdoing, fraud or illegal activity that could affect the public interest, to the public as a whole; whereas such protection should be coherent with the overall legal system; whereas this protection should be effective against unjustified legal prosecutions, economic sanctions and discriminations;

The recommendation is as follows:

Recommendation A7. Protection of whistleblowers
The European Parliament calls on the European Commission to bring forward a legislative proposal as follows:

• Protect whistleblowers who act in the public interest only (and not also for money or any other personal agenda) in order to expose misconduct, wrongdoing, fraud or illegal activity in relation to corporate taxation in any Member State in the European Union. Such whistleblowers should be protected if they report suspected misconduct, wrongdoing, fraud or illegal activity to the relevant competent authority, and should also be protected if, in cases of persistently unaddressed misconduct, wrongdoing, fraud or illegal activity in relation to corporate taxation that could affect the public interest, they report their concerns to the public as a whole;
• Ensure that the right to freedom of expression and information is preserved in the European Union;
• Such protection should be coherent with the overall legal system and be effective against unjustified legal prosecutions, economic penalties and discriminations;
• Such a legislative proposal should take as its basis Regulation (EU) No 596/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council and take into account any future Union legislation in this area;
• Such a legislative proposal could also take into consideration the Council of Europe’s ‘Recommendation CM/Rec(2014)7(11) on the protection of whistleblowers’ and notably the definition of whistleblower ‘as any person who reports or discloses information on a threat or harm to the public interest in the context of their work-based relationship, whether it be in the public or private sector’.

Recommendations 2014

In 2014 the Committee of  Ministers published a recommendation on the protection of whistleblowers, addressed  to Council of Europe member states. According to a leaflet on these recommendations the Committee proposes “a robust framework for facilitating whistleblowing and  protecting whistleblowers” and intends to set out a  number of key principles to ensure that:

  • laws to protect whistleblowers cover a broad range of information that is in the public interest;
  • people have access to more than one channel to report and disclose such information;
  • mechanisms are in place to ensure reports and disclosures are acted on promptly;
  • all forms of retaliation are prohibited as long as the individual whistleblower has reasonable grounds  to believe in the accuracy of the information;
  • whistleblowers are entitled to have their identities kept confidential by those to whom  they report, unless they agree otherwise  (subject to fair trial guarantees).

It looks as if whistleblowing is going to be important for governments.

More information

Europe

  • Press release by the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee (ECON), “Economic affairs MEPs ask EU Commission to table corporate tax measures“, 1 December 2015 (pdf version).
  • ECON report, 2 December 2015.
  • Page on whistleblowers of European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ).
  • Leaflet by the Council of Europe on whistleblowing and the Recommendation.

The Netherlands

  • Files on the site of the Eerste Kamer (in Dutch) regarding two legislative proposals, [1][2].

Aanvulling 12 februari 2016

De moeilijkheden van klokkenluiders blijken onder meer uit de uitspraak van de rechter inzake de klokkenluider in de SNS zaak die recent bekend werd.
In een uitspraak uit januari 2015, die pas onlangs werd gepubliceerd, vindt de rechter dat de klokkenluider de zaak veel te laat aanhangig heeft gemaakt. Is dat een gevalletje ‘de beste stuurlui staan aan de wal’?
Over de uitspraak ook RTL nieuws over deze zaak en het artikel in het FD.

Over Ellen Timmer, advocaat ondernemingsrecht @Pellicaan

Verbonden aan Pellicaan Advocaten, http://www.pellicaan.nl/, kantoor Capelle aan den IJssel (Rotterdam), telefoon 088-6272287, fax 088-6272280, e-mail ellen.timmer@pellicaan.nl ||| Weblogs: algemeen: https://ellentimmer.wordpress.com/ ||| modernisering ondernemingsrecht: http://flexbv.wordpress.com/
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