Tough new protections for whistle-blowers in two years

By Dan Atkinson

Following Deutsche Bank and Lloyd’s of London whistle-blower failures, new protections will encourage whistle-blowers to speak up


This year, two of Europe’s best-known financial institutions have run into choppy waters on the subject of whistle-blowing.

Lloyd’s of London, the insurance market famed for its ability to provide cover for any type of risk, ranging from an opera singer’s voice to space satellites, reported itself to regulators for failing to keep its whistle-blowing systems in good trim.

Meanwhile, Germany’s mighty Deutsche Bank has been buffeted by not one but two separate whistle-blowing events. One refers to its head of compliance in the Middle East, Anna Waterhouse, who claims she has been smeared by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) after she blew the whistle on suspicions of money laundering. Across the Atlantic, anonymous sources have been feeding the media with details of Deutsche’s lending to President Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jnr and his son in law Jared Kushner. The Trump family’s main contact person at the bank, Rosemary Vlabic, may be summonsed to testify to Congressional hearings into Trump finances.

Early this year, the European Council – the body that represents the member governments of the European Union – approved a new directive which will greatly tighten the protection that is available to whistle-blowers. It applies only to those informing on possible breaches of EU law, but, given the extent to which such laws govern commercial, industrial and financial activities, this will mean an extensive change. Member states have until December 2021 to give effect to the directive in their domestic laws and regulations.

Both public and private employers will be required to protect the confidentiality of whistle-blowers, to provide reporting systems that are secure and to ensure that those who speak up will not be victimised.

As well as protecting paid employees, the directive will extend such protection to contractors and other self-employed people, unpaid volunteers and job applicants who may not be on the organisation’s books. In the meantime, the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) has put Lloyd’s under enhanced monitoring overs its failures regarding whistle-blowers. Central to these shortcomings was the failure for more than a year to maintain a telephone helpline that allowed staff to report their concerns anonymously.

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