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FCA steps up number of enforcement cases

Michael Potts, managing partner at Byrne and Partners, comments on the news that the number of cases opened by the FCA doubled between 2014 and 2017…

These statistics represent a clear shift in both the behaviour of the FCA and whistleblowers as a whole. Two things are apparent; the increasing effort by the FCA to open more cases (and earlier) to demonstrate its policy of “credible deterrence”; and the climate for whistleblowers in the UK becoming increasingly hostile, showing no signs of curtailing.
A common misconception is that whistleblowers are either acting out of self-interest, or have ‘defected’ from the business altogether. In most of the cases we have advised on, the actions of the whistleblower are usually in the interest of everybody, not just the whilsteblower. Their actions help to restore the health and integrity of the company and the business sector as a whole.
It’s true that protection for whistleblowers does exist, and it exists in a more robust manner than it used to. It is also true that greater focus is being placed on safeguarding whistleblowers and ensuring their rights are protected, which can be seen in initiatives like the Senior Managers Regime. But it’s clear that not enough is in place to make the difference.

The only thing that should matter is empowering whistleblowers to voluntarily come forward, emboldened and secure. The evidence clearly shows that this is not the current environment that exists. It appears that whistleblowers are still wary of repercussions, media frenzies and, ultimately, loss of their careers. Many commentators would argue that it is vital they are given additional rights. There is the risk that the current regime risks the livelihood and wellbeing of a number of employees who feel they cannot do the right thing. Change is arguably due.

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