In America, the Wells Fargo fake accounts scandal drew lots of media attention over the last year. The scandal highlighted a fraudulent scheme whereby the bank's employees were caught opening millions of fake accounts for unsuspecting customers. As a result of the scandal, Wells Fargo had been ordered to pay $185 million to settle charges against them.
In the aftermath, several Wells Fargo employees alleged that they had raised their concerns within their organisation about the increasing pressure to meet impossible sales targets. They complained that their sales performance was compared to that of fraudsters in their organisation. Some employees even claimed that they were fired for calling the internal whistleblowing hotline.
Turning a blind eye to whistleblowers in the pursuit of financial gain via unethical and fraudulent behaviour will only end one way for businesses. In the aftermath of the scandal it came as no surprise that Wells Fargo were struggling to attract new business and grow revenue.
The scandal and many others of this type raises serious questions about whether some businesses actually suppress whistleblowing as opposed to encouraging staff to raise concerns. It takes a great deal of courage to come forward and raise concerns to an employer. Honesty should be recognised and rewarded.
Getting employees to voice concerns can be difficult. Employees don’t want to get branded as troublemakers for raising concerns. Those staff who do voice their concerns about unethical behaviour to management need be taken seriously. Senior Managers need to ask themselves some questions about their whistleblowing process including;
- Is the whistleblowing process understood by employees?
- Are all staff aware that no retaliatory action will be taken by the business against employees that raise genuine concerns in good faith?
- What support is available to those who do blow-the-whistle?
- Who can your employees talk to if they don’t feel confident raising a concern internally?
- Is an internal whistleblowing process enough, or should companies look to add an extra layer of protection from an external whistleblowing service provider?
Answering these questions through your whistleblowing policy demonstrates to your workforce that the senior management and the board are committed to stamping out wrongdoing and encouraging employees to speak up. However, if not enough time and resource is devoted into investigating concerns, potential whistleblowers are likely to be reluctant to come forward.
Businesses expect their employees to embrace the ethical codes they aspire to in order to enhance and secure effective corporate governance. It is therefore crucial that when an employee identifies a potential breach of the code they should have access to a safe and simple process by which to report the breach. An external and independent whistleblowing service provides this solution allowing an employee to report issues in a safe and supportive environment.
The cost associated with implementing an external whistleblowing provider is a small price to pay for a workforce encouraged to speak up and ultimately reduce the risk of financial loss in your business.
SeeHearSpeakUp deliver Whistleblowing Solutions to companies globally. For more information, call the team on +44 (0)1224 625111