Four Misconceptions About a Whistleblower Program

Posted by Amanda Nieweler

on February 24, 2014

graphic close up typed printMany companies have already implemented an ethics reporting program, others might be thinking about one for some time in the future. And still others may not have even considered it. You might think it’s too expensive, or that you don’t need one. With what seems to be an onslaught of corporate scandals in the media these days, ensuring that your existing program is ticking away nicely, or that your newly implemented program gets the company-wide press it needs, here are four misconceptions we’ve quickly put together about a whistleblower program.

Too expensive! We’ll never be able to afford one with a tight budget:
A whistleblower program need not break the bank. You’ve spent many, many hours to build your business to where it is today. You’ve invested the time and energy in hiring and training the right employees to help move your business even farther. Can you afford not to have a program in place? To operate on the idea that nothing unethical has ever happened in your organization (or never will) is probably a false notion. We shudder to think about that but it’s probably true. And just what if an employee felt that there was nowhere to go to report an alleged unethical wrongdoing, so instead, went outside the organization? The time and cost involved in dealing with that type of publicity and backlash is most certainly more than the cost of implementing a program to begin with.

We’re a private company – we don’t need one:
Yes it’s true that to meet the US requirements of Sarbanes Oxley and the Canadian Multi-Lateral Instrument 52-110, public companies are mandated to have a whistleblower policy and procedure in place. But this doesn’t mean that private companies shouldn’t adopt a program themselves. A privately held company can benefit from adopting some of the best practices that have been developed by implementing a whistleblower program and complying with either of the two acts. If a private company voluntarily decides to put a program in place, it can most certainly make that company more attractive for acquisition, possible public offering or investment. Another benefit of implementing a whistleblower program is improved communication company-wide. Having worked in private companies my whole career, one of the top “employee wants” was better communication company-wide, and a setting for anonymous communication.

Our employees already know about our ethics position – they’ve read our policies:
Speaking from experience, I have tended to (ahem) forget about my company’s policies. It’s seemingly a manual that gets handed to you when you transition through your onboarding at the new company, only to be buried at the bottom of a pile of other paperwork, or placed on an intranet page where nobody looks because it doesn’t involve the next company fun day. So no, your employees probably don’t remember your position on ethics. If you have a program in place, you’ve taken the first step because you care about your employees and you value their feedback and concerns. Keep the program and policy top of mind by hosting training sessions, plaster your communal areas with posters, and make it a running topic on the agenda of company-wide meetings.

Our hotline is effective – we’ve had no violations to date:
No news is not necessarily good news. While it may be true that perhaps employees might feel secure in the corporate culture for the moment, it doesn’t mean that at some point, an alleged wrongdoing won’t occur. As in the previous point, ensure that the organization’s whistleblower policy and Code of Ethics is brought to mind on a regular basis and that employees are aware that upper management has completely bought into and encourages the use of the anonymous hotline whenever they feel they need to. In many cases, alleged fraud is only found out by employee tip to an anonymous hotline.

WhistleBlower Security is committed to promoting a culture of integrity, collaboration and transparency for our employees and clients. Our reporting and analytic solutions are combined with advanced security and data management to provide your organization with the tangible tools that will deter and prevent ongoing fraud within your organization.