For many years, ASIC has been reluctant to support the notion that whistleblowers should be rewarded or receive compensation for blowing the whistle. This appears to reflect a view of Australian culture that you should not reward those who “dob in a mate”.
Greg Medcraft, the chairman of ASIC has recently expressed the view that some form of compensation should be offered to whistleblowers in recognition of the risks they took and damage done to their careers. Mr Medcraft was giving evidence to a Parliamentary Committee looking into whistleblowers. While he remained of the view that rewarding whistleblowers on the US model was inconsistent with Australian culture, it was time that whistleblowers who reported wrongs to the company should receive some form of compensation (out of any fine or penalties imposed on the company). ASIC may now be accepting the game-changing role that whistleblowers play (which is the case as far as the US SEC is concerned) in helping to change corporate culture.
As Mr Medcraft was quoted in the Australian media, it is not just a matter of having the right internal controls, “but equally, it is about having a situation where whistleblowers are…actually properly supported and compensated, potentially, for their lifetime earnings.” This willingness to proactively recognise the value of whistleblowers reflects the pioneering research of Prof AJ Brown at Griffith University who found that in a landmark survey between 2012 and 2014 at least 80% of respondents considered all whistleblowers needed proper protections and compensation for the courage to speak out about improper or illegal conduct.
These developments will be monitored.