Eileen Leslie, CFE, CPA
Forensic Analyst, Forensic Strategic Solutions
I envision a resounding “yes” is crossing your mind, no matter who you are or where you fall in the organizational chain of command.
But seriously, stop and think. You are the organization’s owner, president, human resources manager, executive, employee, etc., and in your opinion, should your organization have a whistleblower policy or does it need one?
The difference I am trying to convey has to do with your organization’s ethical culture.
Of course most, if not all, organizations should have a whistleblower policy in place. It should include all of the standard and essential elements: definition of covered individuals, encouragement to report wrongdoings, non-retaliation and non-discrimination provisions, confidentiality of individuals and a defined process of reporting. The policy should be effectively communicated to pertinent individuals and the implementation and enforcement processes should be functional.
The question of needing a policy depends on the culture or values of the organization.
While working as a financial analyst in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I investigated many whistleblowers’ allegations of companies violating the False Claims Act. I recall one time sitting across the table from a CEO who clearly did not foster an ethical culture when it came to doing business with the federal government. When asked if he knew or had read the federal regulations governing the company’s business, he responded by chuckling and saying the regulations were “too boring to read.” His sentiment, obviously, trickled down to the company’s management and employees, resulting in whistleblower allegations, a federal investigation and ultimate settlement with the company.
So, what are the best practices for an organization to not need a whistleblower policy?
- Hire ethical people.
- Hire competent people who have the knowledge to perform their work in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations.
- Create an environment where people are encouraged to report problems or concerns.
- Take reported problems seriously, investigate and resolve if needed.
- Reward good faith reporting.
- Take the negativity out of whistleblowing or filing complaints, and create opportunities to better the organization.
Sounds simple, right? No organization wants to suffer the embarrassment and negative publicity that can occur as a result of whistleblower allegations. Review your organization’s current whistleblower policy if it has one. Ask yourself, “Do you need that policy?”