Whistleblowers: What Companies and Authorities Can Expect
On 4 April 2019, the commercial law firm Binder Grösswang held another seminar in its “early bird” series; the subject was “Whistleblowers – What Companies and Authorities Can Expect in the Future”. Numerous invited guests from the business sector as well as representatives of public authorities attended the event at the firm’s premises at Sterngasse 13 in Vienna.
Two Binder Grösswang experts on public commercial law, Johannes Barbist (partner) and Regina Kröll (attorney at law) informed the highly interested listeners about the latest developments concerning the sensitive topic of whistleblowing (systems). A special insight was provided by Kai Leisering, CEO of Business Keeper. He introduced the whistleblowing system “BKMS”, which is being utilized by various authorities (Public Prosecutor's Office against Corruption, Financial Market Authority, etc.) and companies in Austria and abroad.
The specific occasion for this early bird seminar was the EU Directive on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law.
Companies with 50 employees or more, and certain public authorities, will have to set up internal reporting channels and procedures ensuring the protection of whistleblowers’ identities. In addition, they will have to institute follow-up measures regarding the reports received and also inform the whistleblowers that they have done so.
A lively discussion ensued about the requirements for and scope of whistleblower protection. There is to be no strict three-phase model (internal, external, public). On the contrary, in addition to a free choice between internal and external notifications, in exceptional cases a whistleblower will be permitted to directly inform the public of breaches.
Within two years of coming into force, the EU Directive is to be transposed into national law.