Beginning March 20, WhistleblowersUK is kicking off its 1st Annual Whistleblowing Awareness Week. Hosted jointly by WhistleblowersUK and the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Whistleblowing, this event will span the entire week and bring together leading voices in the whistleblower sphere in order to advocate for stronger, more protective laws in the UK and beyond.
Georgina Halford-Hall, CEO of WhistleblowersUK, recently joined Whistleblower Network News’ (WNN) podcast to discuss the upcoming event.
“Whistleblowing Awareness Week will help to debunk some of these strange ideas that whistleblowers in the UK are different than whistleblowers anywhere else,” Halford-Hall said.
Halford-Hall was joined by WNN Contributing Editor Jane Turner and whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn, who will be appearing in London next week. WNN is a sponsor of the event alongside D.C.-based whistleblower law firm Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto LLP.
One objective of Whistleblowing Awareness Week is to raise support for The Whistleblowing Bill. Introduced in April of 2022 by member of Parliament and chair of the APPG for Whistleblowing Mary Robinson, and sponsored in the House of the Lords by Baroness Kramer, the bill aims to:
- protect all whistleblowers and those associated with whistleblowers;
- set mandatory minimum standards for policies and procedures and investigations of protected disclosures;
- create a new judicial process for deciding disputes arising from whistleblowing;
- impose fines and penalties against those retaliating against whistleblowers; and
- dedicate helplines and resources that can make citizens aware of their whistleblower rights.
“We are raising awareness, as you are in the states, to make sure that all of those people [with information on financial crimes] have somewhere to go,” Halford-Hall said. “All of that information can be all together so it can be investigated by those who have statutory powers to be able to do so. And for us, it’s going to be the Office of the Whistleblower and the Whistleblowing Bill.”
Stephen M. Kohn, founding partner of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto LLP and chairman of the board of the National Whistleblower Center, will appear on the “Developing and Managing an Effective Whistleblowing Framework” panel chaired by Halford-Hall. This panel is part of the March 23rd “The Future of Whistleblowing” conference nested within WBAW and hosted by sponsor Grant Thornton UK LLP. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Enforcement Attorney Melanie Devoe, among other U.S. and UK attorneys and advocates, will join Kohn on this panel to discuss what has worked for American laws and programs and how the UK can implement and expand on those successes.
“UK whistleblowers have been an integral source of information in exposing multinational criminal conspiracies,” Kohn said. “The Whistleblowing Awareness Week conference will be a milestone in further cooperation between American and UK whistleblowers, lawyers, government officials and activists to hold white-collar criminals accountable.”
Between 2011 and 2021, over 780 tips were submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from whistleblowers in the UK. This number continues to rise each year as UK whistleblowers look to U.S. programs for their best chance at protection and financial rewards, a provision hotly debated among those in the UK with an interest in whistleblowing.
“…this idea that [whistleblowers] shouldn’t be properly compensated when they are disadvantaged, and when they experience losses, in my opinion, is that that is fundamentally wrong,” Halford-Hall said.
Under the Securities and Exchange Commission, just one of the U.S. agencies that accepts and rewards whistleblowers internationally, $1.3 billion has been given out in awards since 2011.
“[Halford-Hall] is putting together a broad coalition and making it nonpartisan, reaching out to all the different political parties, as best as you can, and that’s the formula for success,” Kohn said. “Focus on the contribution that whistleblowers can bring to the table fighting corruption, focus on the hardships they suffer and trying to remedy them and build as broad a coalition as possible. That’s what we’ve done in the United States and it’s worked.”
Most recently, U.S. whistleblower advocates fought for the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Whistleblower Improvement Act, which granted provisions of confidentiality and anonymity to those blowing the whistle on money laundering and sanctions busting, and created a fund to reward those whose information results in a successful enforcement action. This law is transnational, and UK whistleblowers are invited to report under it. As the UK fights for laws and whistleblower offices of their own, Halford-Hall wants to prioritize collaboration and global support for whistleblowers.
“We’re no longer individual countries,” Halford-Hall said. “Like organizations, we cross boundaries, and people work all around the world. They live all around the world, so it’s about aligning. We want to dispel the stigma, because whistleblowers are really special people.”
U.S. groups have rallied in support for stronger protections for U.K whistleblowers in their own home countries. The National Whistleblower Center has been working with NGOs and partners to combat corruption and strengthen whistleblower laws within the European Union since Parliament passed the Whistleblowing Directive in 2019. Whistleblowers of America (WoA) is a nonprofit organization looking to provide peer support to victimized employees and support those who have been retaliated against. Jacqueline Garrick, President of WoA, is set to speak during Whistleblowing Awareness Week.
“When whistleblowers from around the world unite, we can change the conversation around whistleblowing and reduce the stigma against the person who reports wrongdoing,” Garrick said.
Other key speakers at the event include Baroness Kramer, a member of the House of Lords and sponsor of the Protection for Whistleblowing Bill and Office of the Whistleblower Bill.
The full schedule of panels, workshops, roundtables, and keynote addresses can be found here.
Event hosts have noted that space for in-person events is limited, so events will be livestreamed, recorded, and posted online when possible. Register for either the in-person or virtual event here.