Whistleblowing complaints up 24% in UK

Pedro Gonçalves
Whistleblowing complaints up 24% in UK

The number os whistleblowing complaints made to the UK's financial watchdog has seen a 24% spike, with a total of 1,755 complaints received last year, according to official numbers.

Of the total complaints received by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) by whistleblowers, a considerable amount (246) was related to concerns about how companies treat their clients. In 2017 the financial regulator received 1,240 whistleblowing complaints.

Complaints about market manipulation and data security both doubled over the year, according to figures received from the FCA through a freedom of information request by BDO.

The IRS has also recently provided a $26m award letter to our client who blew the whistle on secret bank accounts of billionaires - bringing back over $100m dollars to the Treasury"

Despite the increase in complaints, the FCA only acted on 121 disclosures that it thought were within its remit in the 2017-2018 financial year, according to its annual report. One case where it is investigating a string of whistleblowing complaints is that of Royal Bank of Canada's working culture in its London office, after dozens of former employees complained to the regulator over their treatment.

This contrasts signifcanlty from what is happening in the USA.  The IRS recently released the FY 2018 report on the Whistleblower Program - announcing that the IRS had collected a record-breaking $1.441bn in taxes, penalties and interest collected thanks to information provided by whistleblowers - up from $190m the previous year.  The IRS also announced that whistleblowers had received $312m in awards - an increase from $33 million in awards provided the previous year.

 "These eye-blinking numbers of dollars collected and awards given in the recent IRS annual report is the best news of the year for whistleblowers and taxpayers.  The IRS program is now working and working remarkably well.  I'm especially proud that the whistleblowers that Dean Zerbe and I represent as co-counsels account for nearly $725m of the tax dollars brought into the Treasury through the whistleblower program last year and that our clients received $158m of the $312m in awards announced by the IRS," said Stephen M. Kohn of the whistleblower law firm Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto (KKC). 
"I am enormously pleased that the good news from last year keeps rolling for whistleblowers and honest taxpayers.  The IRS recently issued two award letters totaling $88m to whistleblowers that are represented by one or both law firms.  This includes an award of over $62m to a group of courageous whistleblowers who exposed significant corporate tax evasion.  It is the largest tax whistleblower award ever reported for a group whistleblower filing - and resulted in over $400m in taxes and interest recovered by the Treasury," said Dean Zerbe of Zerbe, Miller, Fingeret and Frank (ZMF) law firm. 
"The IRS has also recently provided a $26m award letter to our client who blew the whistle on secret bank accounts of billionaires - bringing back over $100m dollars to the Treasury.  The amount of hidden dollars that have been brought to light thanks to the IRS whistleblower program makes it all the clearer that foreign countries - as well as our own states - that want to be serious about going after big-dollar secret stashes of cash need to implement a robust whistleblower award program.  Words and good intentions aren't getting the job done - protecting whistleblowers, rewarding whistleblowers - that is what is needed to crack open the secret accounts.  The recent bipartisan amendment to the IRS whistleblower program by Senators Grassley (R-IA) and Wyden (D-OR) has been critical to ensuring that the whistleblower program is effective in going after illegal offshore accounts," Kohn said.

In Canada, the Ontario Securities Commission has made its first three payments to whistleblowers under a new program that allows anonymous sources to tip off the regulator about misdeeds at companies.

The regulator says the total value of the cash payments add up to just under C$7.5m, which went to three different people who tipped off the OSC about three different matters.