KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 — The consequences of speaking the truth and whistleblowing can be truly appalling.
But whistleblowing should be viewed as an act of great courage, conscience and competence aimed at the long term well-being of the organisation, as the corporate history is replete with failures and scandals where whistleblowers have been ignored or victimised.
Paul Moore, the former head of Group Regulatory Risk at Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBoS), United Kingdom, could vouch for this as he was sacked and was never offered another equivalent job after he blew the whistle on the bank’s risky sales strategies.
However, his revelation that the HBoS board had failed to understand the risk it was taking was vindicated by regulators in 2015 when an official report on the bank’s collapse in 2008 laid bare the devastating mistakes which led to the takeover by Lloyds and a 20.5 billion British pound bailout.
Moore will be sharing his dramatic experience in dealing with the breach of trust and the consequences of action and inaction on corporate misconducts at the International Directors Summit 2019, held Oct 14-15.
The event is organised by the Institute of Corporate Directors Malaysia (ICDM).
In an email interview, Moore said based on his observations, whistleblowing protection needs to cover the broadest range of disclosures made in good faith which relates to actual or potential prospective breach of any law or regulation.
He said all countries should have a dedicated regulator which operates independently of all other state criminal authorities, whose mandate is to encourage, support and protect whistleblowers and to enforce penalties against those who act to their detriment.
“I call this “The Office of the Whistleblower”. It could be called “The Ombudsman of the Whistleblower,” he said, adding that the relevant regulator / enforcement agency can take the severest disciplinary action on any executive who dismisses or acts to the detriment of a whistleblower.
“Whistleblowers, whether identified or anonymous, must be compensated fully and awarded exemplary damages for their actions. After all, they have acted as unpaid officers of the rule of law in their countries.
“I personally believe that if anyone is considering of blowing the whistle, they need to have ready and easily available access to expert advice in advance on how to ensure they have the right evidence, how they can disclose it and get something done about it and remain anonymous and protected,” he said.
He noted that such a move can be very difficult, but the whistleblowers can be assisted by officers from the agency or department dedicated to protecting them.
Closer to home, when asked to comment on the 1MDB scandal where whistleblowers were ignored or not taken seriously, Moore said he only knew about the alleged corruption from the local news media, and did not feel competent to comment on it.
“However, I will make one general comment which applies throughout the world to this sort of corruption as well as corporate wrongdoing.
“It’s a quote from a well-known docudrama called ‘The Age of Stupid’, starring Pete Postlethwaite, a famous British actor. He said “with profit the only measuring stick, destroying the planet is built into the system”.
Those who wish to attend the ICDM International Directors Summit may register at https://ids2019.icdm.com.my
This article appeared in Bernama and The Edge Markets on October 8, 2019.