Those looking to report corruption, fraud, tax evasion, and other forms of misconduct in the corporate world can finally get the protection they deserve as new whistleblower laws in Australia clear federal parliament.
Corporate whistleblower laws introduced in late 2017 have managed to pass the lower house in early 2019. These laws put into place offer greater protection for anyone wishing to voice concerns about fraudulent activities within a division of the corporate world.
Corporate crime is an illegal act that is committed by a company or business with the goal of giving the company a boost or advantage they normally would be unable to receive. Examples of this are all over the world and are committed by even some of the best-known brands. Many in the U.S. may even recall back in 2014 when Rite Aid, one of the largest drug stores, was required to pay almost 3 billion for violating the False Claims Act by allegedly using gift cards to sway those on Medicare and Medicaid to switch their prescriptions to their pharmacies. This would be considered an act of bribery, and one of the many types of corporate crime. Corporate crime has cost many countries a considerable amount, and so whistleblowers, those who have set out to inform others about illicit activity, are one of the best defenses we have to fight against this type of crime.
Support for these laws is most likely inspired by the more than $8.5 billion a year that Australia roughly suffers due to crimes committed on a corporate level. This type of crime accounts for nearly 40% of all costs of crimes.
These facts were conveyed by Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert who also stated that “These reforms help protect whistleblowers who may expose themselves to significant personal and financial risk in return for their critical role in the early detection and prosecution of misconduct in businesses,”
There are a few key elements to these amendments that improve the protection of whistleblowers. Firstly, now whistleblowers have the right to go directly to the media with their observations and complaints if those who run the corporation have been warned but choose not to act within the span of 90 days after being notified of these complaints. Secondly, whistleblowers will have an easier time keeping their identity private in order to more freely disclose their information, since they will no longer be required to identify themselves before making statements. Lastly, whistleblowers that are prosecuted or victimized will now have the right to enact a civil penalty which hopes of deterring those attempting any form of retaliation.
Many stories have circulated throughout the years in which whistleblowers were faced with many trying events due to their sense of justice when it comes to exposing corruptions in corporations. Meryl Swanson, Labor Party MP, has shared a story of a personal friend of hers who was nearly a victim of ostracization from the professional world after they blew the whistle at their place of work without assistance. In addition to being ostracized, whistleblowers who do not receive the proper support can end up in a number of unfortunate situations such as simply being ignored to point-blank harassment.
These laws cleared in Australia suggest a sincere step in the right direction when it comes to improving whistleblower rights and protections on perhaps even a global level. Those who feel the need to speak up about something they notice within a corporate environment will now be free to use their voice with more anonymity and less risk of unlawful retaliation.
Those who are interested in becoming a whistleblower or learning more about the current protections of whistleblowers can find more information at Jeffrey Newman Law Help Center.