Our CEO Georgina Halford-Hall comments on the lack of FCA resources devoted to supporting whistleblowers

Concerns about fitness and propriety, systems and controls, compliance and culture accounted for the highest number of whistle-blowing reports to the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in 2018. Collectively they amounted to 38.5 percent of all such reports received by the regulator, according to the response to a request under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2000.

The FoI response also revealed that the FCA increased the size of its whistle-blowing team by 71 percent last year. Despite the rise in headcount, however, a UK charity dedicated to helping whistleblowers has stopped referring cases about one bank to the FCA until it has dealt with the backlog of previous reports regarding that institution.

Georgina Halford-Hall, chief executive of WhistleblowersUK, said the charity had put a temporary hold on referring whistleblowers from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to the FCA.

"We continue to support John Banerjee [a former RBC employee who lost his job after he blew the whistle on compliance failings at the bank] in demanding answers now. It is inconceivable that the FCA have still not reached a conclusion on this matter a year after winning his [employment tribunal], which exposed that [senior managers regime] rules had been broken. The FCA have more than enough information to conclude their investigation and have done for a very long time.

"Having been told that each new [whistle-blowing case] delays the decision I have informed the FCA that WhistleblowersUK will not be referring new RBC [whistleblowers] until they release the report.

"I am concerned about the ongoing impact of the delay on other whistleblowers and potential whistleblowers at all banks," Halford-Hall said.

RBC declined to comment.

The FCA said it could not comment on whether it was or was not investigating a specific firm but denied investigations were halted when it received new allegations from whistleblowers.

“Clearly multiple whistle-blowing reports dealing with related matters may cause investigations to become wider or broader. But there is no substance to statements about related whiste-blowing reports concerning the same firm causing investigations to ‘restart’.

“Seeking to stop or prevent a whistleblower reporting misconduct directly to the FCA may be criminal offence," an FCA spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

Overall, the regulator received 1,755 reports from whistleblowers in 2018.

Categorisation confusion

The way the FCA has chosen to categorise the reports makes it hard to match them to numbers given by senior FCA staff. For instance, in December 2018 Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA, said the regulator had received a "noticeable upturn in reports which concern discrimination and sexual harassment". Woolard said the regulator had received 64 reports on non-financial misconduct last year.

According to the response to the FoI submitted by Thomson Reuters Regulatory Intelligence (TRRI), however, the FCA received just five reports relating to sexual harassment in 2018 and the regulator does not have a category for discrimination or other non-financial misconduct. The catch-all "FSMA" (Financial Services and Markets Act 2000<http://www.complinet.com/global-rulebooks/display/rulebook.html?rbid=1072>) category received 72 reports in 2018.

The FCA received the most reports under its fitness and propriety category: 301 during 2018. Next was treating customers fairly with 246; systems and controls with 146; culture and organisation at 136; consumer detriment at 114; fraud with 109; and compliance with 107.

There were 19 reports about whistle-blowing, 14 of them landing in the third quarter of 2018.

Financial crime was broken down across nine categories: anti-money laundering (AML) had 35 reports; bribery and corruption nine; crime 14; fraud 109; insider dealing 18; market manipulation 41; money laundering concerns 28; Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) AML just one; and terrorist finance, six.

Headcount

The FoI response revealed there were 12 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff dealing with the initial sift of whistle-blowing reports in March 2019, up from seven in 2018 and a considerable increase on the 2.5 FTE when the FCA launched in 2013.

In responding to the FoI request, the FCA stressed that the 12 staff members were just a fraction of the resource the regulator had allocated to whistle-blowing under Jane Attwood, head of the FCA's intelligence department.

"The specialist whistle-blowing team [is] dedicated to the receipt, initial assessment and dissemination within the FCA of whistle-blowing disclosures. Naturally, this team is not responsible for any supervisory inquiries or enforcement investigations that may arise from the whistle-blowing intelligence that is received by the team. Work arising from whistle-blowing is undertaken by a significant number of additional staff across the FCA, depending on the nature and subject matter of the intelligence," the FCA said in the FoI response.

The FCA's total headcount at July 2018 was 3,739; the whistle-blowing team therefore represents 0.32 percent of its workforce.

"The FCA has almost 4,000 staff and can deploy only 12 to the whistle-blowing team; it signals that whistle-blowing is a low priority.

"The FCA exists to protect the public interest but appears to expend more resource on its roadshows than whistleblowers, who are the principal source of intelligence for the FCA.

"Not only is the whistle-blowing team too small but it also requires significant upskilling to deal more effectively with whistleblowers," Halford-Hall said.

More than 60 Royal Bank of Canada staff raise concerns about culture

More than 60 current and former employees at Royal Bank of Canada have spoken up over concerns about culture and compliance at the banking group in the past two years.
People familiar with the matter told Financial News that concerned staff had either made contact with whistleblowing advocacy groups or the UK’s market regulator.

Our CEO Georgina Halford-Hall who has been advising the FCA on how it treats whistleblowers, said: “We need a system where people know they can find a universal process where whistleblowers are listened to, protected and supported.”

The new number shows the scale of the problem for RBC, which, according to a January 11 report in the Financial Times, is being investigated by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority over working culture at its London investment bank: RBC Capital Markets.
The FCA launched its probe after a former RBC trader, who claimed to have been fired after raising compliance issues, won a case of unfair dismissal in the summer of 2017.

Since the former trader’s dismissal in 2016, more than 60 people across RBC’s global business have come forward with culture and compliance concerns, people familiar with the matter said.
RBC Capital Markets declined to comment on the numbers but said in a statement on January 11: “We actively promote a culture of compliance and giving employees opportunities to speak up and raise concerns without fear of retaliation.”


The FCA has not commented on the investigation.
The regulator itself is under fire for the way it handles incidents of whistleblowing. In September, FCA bosses were forced to defend the treatment of those who seek to raise concerns at banks and fund managers in the City of London.

Mary Inman, head of the international whistleblowing practice at Constantine Cannon, the law firm, said: “This RBC investigation feels like a #MeToo moment for whistleblowers. After one person stepped up, there has been a domino effect that has emboldened whistleblowers to come forward.”





Office closed from 22nd December to 6th January inclusive

Unfortunately we will not be able to provide a response to enquiries from Saturday 22nd December 2018 to Sunday 6th January 2019 inclusive. The telephone line will not be available during this time.

Completed Initial Contact Forms and emails will be answered in date order when the office reopens on Monday 7th January 2019.

Prison service whistleblower gives evidence of prison being "chaotic".

A former prison officer with 31 years’ service is claiming that she was treated unfairly by prison chiefs because she turned whistleblower and complained about rampant drug use, escalating levels of violence and a breakdown in discipline at HMP Nottingham.

At the opening of her hearing at the London Central employment tribunal, where she is claiming unfair dismissal from the prison service, Diane Ward, 55, claimed that the prison was at times chaotic.

WBUK CEO Georgina Halford-Hall spoke at the 2018 Edinburgh Financial Crime Prevention Symposium on 11th October 2018

Georgina addressed this definitive compliance and financial crime prevention event of the year in Edinburgh on the 11th October 2018

Acknowledged by senior offshore practitioners as the essential event for MLROs, MLCOs, Compliance Officers, Senior Managers and Directors, the symposium offered a valuable opportunity to reflect upon the challenges faced by industry, whilst equipping delegates with enhanced awareness of the key risks in compliance and the fight against financial crime.

The symposium will attract financial services professionals from around Europe and aims to host over 200 delegates.

Georgina spoke on “Changing the cultural perception of whistleblowing – from shooting the messenger to supporting the courageous” and was very well received by an enthusiastic audience.

"Staff sacked for blowing whistle on safety dodgers" The Times 20/9/2018

“Whistleblowers are being sacked and threatened with violence for trying to shed light on life-threatening malpractice in the construction trade, industry leaders have said.”

The persecution of whistleblowers is everywhere, and in this case lives are at risk if sub-standard material is used in construction.

“In one case, unrelated to Grenfell, a former factory manager for one of the biggest cavity wall insulation companies in Britain blew the whistle on its manufacturing of cheap insulation that was below the certified standard, was not fire retardant and would not fill the cavity when injected into walls.”

Guess what? “When I kept bringing it up, the director told me to turn a blind eye and don’t worry, no one sees it inside the wall.”

Sadly, the almost inevitable outcome: “The man was eventually sacked and has failed to find work in the industry since.”

“Brian Moore, deputy chief executive of the BBA (British Board of Agrément, the body that guarantees the safety of insulation) and a former chief constable of Wiltshire, said that there was no adequate mechanism to co-ordinate a response to criminal behaviour and malpractice in the construction industry. “It cannot be more serious,” he said.

That looks like more evidence of the need for a national Office for the Whistleblower.

The Times: Ministers told to change their tune on whistleblowers - WBUK advocate the Office for the Whistleblower

"Senior politicians and campaigners are demanding a radical overhaul of whistleblowing protections after a series of high profile cases have highlighted gaps in public interest disclosure legislation.

They warn that scandals such as the deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital will be repeated because employers are not statutorily required to investigate concerns raised by whistleblowers. Instead, those who speak out can find their careers in tatters and face a battle for compensation through the employment tribunal at huge personal and financial cost."

"However, Baroness Kramer, the Liberal Democrat peer, says that there is a “growing drumbeat” for the UK’s legislation to be reformed. She is co-chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary group on whistleblowing. “I spent many years working in the US corporate world, where there is much greater respect for whistleblowers,” she recalls. “Seeing how so many whistleblowers here were treated while I was on the parliamentary commission on banking standards was shocking.”

"Georgina Halford-Hall set up WBUK in 2014 after experiencing first-hand the trauma of being a whistleblower and finding herself under arrest. She was vindicated but she says: “The legal protections are nothing more than a placebo. There is no statutory obligation to investigate allegations under Pida and it is not the role of the employment tribunal to decide if a protected disclosure is upheld, which allows unsafe and illegal practices to continue.”

City Watchdog faces crucial test after whistleblower sacked for speaking out

"This is MONEY" carries the story of our difficulties and ultimate success in working with whistleblower John Banerjee in his fight for justice against the Royal Bank of Canada. 

"Banerjee has won a tribunal against the bank, which was slammed by the judge for sacking him ‘for making a public interest disclosure’.

The result appears to suggest that senior RBC staff broke strict rules set by the Financial Conduct Authority which state that workers cannot be victimised for raising concerns. It will pile pressure on the FCA to take action against those responsible – potentially opening the door for senior bankers to be banned from the finance industry over the issue for the first time. Regulators are facing calls to take tough action against RBC."

The full article may be found here: 

"Georgina Halford-Hall of campaign group Whistleblowers UK said: ‘We continue to press the Financial Conduct Authority to take action on the findings exposed in this case.’

Banerjee, 50, joined RBC’s London office in 2015. He quickly raised concerns about the policies which governed trading at the firm and were meant to stop bad behaviour and excessive risk-taking. Banerjee emailed three senior executives after attending a meeting at which staff were told they had a duty to speak up about bad practice. He raised concerns about RBC’s box-ticking culture. But senior bankers privately branded Banerjee a ‘blowhard’. He was fired in August 2016 for repeatedly being late, but Judge Tayler found the bank desperately wanted to avoid a proper investigation of Banerjee’s complaints and had dismissed him to keep him silent.

A spokesman for RBC said: ‘We strongly disagree with the tribunal’s decision and we are appealing.’ The FCA said: ‘Whistleblowers play an important role in exposing poor practice.’"

New All Party Parliamentary Group for Whistleblowing set up 10th July 2018.

A brand new APPG on Whistleblowing was created on 10th July 2018 under the Chairmanship of Stephen Kerr MP. WhistleblowersUK is delighted to have been selected to be the secretariat for this Group.

We will be working over the summer to prepare for the next meeting after parliament reconvenes after the summer break.

Exciting times!

Georgina is presenting at the prestigious Festival of Education on the 21st June

Our CEO Georgina Halford-Hall is running a workshop at the prestigious Festival of Education on the 21st June 2018.  Joining her will be a partner in the law firm Constantine Cannon, Mary Inman, also an expert in whistleblowing law.

It is a great honour, and welcome recognition of the work of Georgina and WhistleblowersUK that we have been invited to this event. Sadly, we have too much experience of how whistleblowers have been badly treated by school leadership and how kids have suffered as a result.  We hope to share some of our experiences and knowledge in order to help others to develop and implement better procedures so that kids are better protected from harm.

The session is titled:

"The reality of whistleblowing - why procedures need to be better"  12.20 p.m. 21/6/2108
Georgina Halford-Hall | Chief Executive, WhistleblowersUK & Mary Inman | Partner, Constantine Cannon

EU Trade Secrets Directive - concern for whistleblowers

We have responded to the government consultation on draft regulations concerning trade secrets as follows:

 

Dear Sir or Madam,

We are writing regarding the UK’s imminent transposition of the EU’s Trade Secrets Directive. Our primary concern is to ensure that this law which is aimed at protecting legitimate trade secrets does not interfere with, other than to strengthen, the rights of and protections for whistleblowers. 

We know from our considerable experience of the problems currently faced by whistleblowers that protections for them are essential and it is imperative that the existing provisions in UK law contained in the Public Interest Disclosure Act are included and strengthened within the transposed directive. 

We are concerned that transposition would create legal ambiguity about protection for whistleblowers in the UK with the consequence that whistleblowers would be even more unwilling to come forward with their legitimate public interest concerns about wrong-doing and criminality. from coming forward to raise legitimate and important public interest concerns in the future.  

Yours faithfully,

Tom Lloyd QPM MA (Oxon)

Chairman, WhistleblowersUK

Whistleblowing: still a risky business

Industry experts on whistleblowing have been lobbying hard for reform, but it is still often the case that whistleblowers with the best of intentions have found themselves in legal grey areas, ending up blacklisted, bankrupt and unable to work in the City again.

Full article: https://www.euromoney.com/article/b16xvynpv9qs1p/whistleblowing-still-a-risky-business?copyrightInfo=true
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