One of the negatives for any compliance program is that internal whistleblowers, employees who want to do the right thing and report instances of fraud, bribery, and corruption, are frustrated in attempts to do so. This is not the situation where whistleblowers are actively and openly retaliated against for coming forward, such as what occurred in the Wells Fargo fraudulent accounts scandal. This is when someone wants to come forward or does come forward, but the information they bring forward is not acted upon.
Most employees are more likely to report instances of unethical or illegal conduct they come across to their immediate supervisor or someone in the short chain above that person—usually middle management. This means an organization must training middle management on how to receive such information and how to report it up so that it can be acted up. It also means a middle manager must be educated to receive the tip with appropriate seriousness and then know both to whom and how to report the information up the chain so that it can be acted upon. If an organization has not trained middle managers on this topic or made such training a part of middle managers’ tool-kits within the last 24 months, it should be made a part of the next cycle of manager training.
With the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Digital Realty Trust v. Somers eviscerating Dodd-Frank whistleblower protections for those persons who report internally and not to the SEC, about the only thing companies can do to build trust for internal reporting is to take seriously the reports of those who come forward, get the reports into the hands of the corporate functions that can triage and investigate any such information, and keep the whistleblower in the loop more fully as to the status of the investigation. It is now more important than ever.