Many FCA and PRA regulated firms were due to ensure that they complied with new whistleblowing rules by 7 September 2016.
Firms affected are:
- Deposit-takers with over £250 million in assets (including banks and building societies);
- PRA-designated investment firms;
- Insurers subject to the Solvency II Directive (2009/138/EC); and
- Society of Lloyd's and managing agents.
Other FCA regulated firms should take note, because from 2018, these whistleblowing rules will be applied to all FSMA firms.
The firms affected now, will have already allocated responsibility for whistleblowing compliance to a whistleblowers' champion (usually a non-executive director). The whistleblowers' champion oversees the implementation of systems and processes aimed at compliance with the new rules, ensuring that everything is now in place. The whistleblowers’ champion will oversee the preparation of an annual report to the board (available to the FCA/PRA on request) about the functioning of internal whistleblowing policies and procedures.
To comply with the new whistleblowing rules, affected firms must set up an independent whistleblowing channel, rather like a corporate whistleblowing hotline, via which whistleblowers (workers and others) can make anonymous and confidential disclosures. All types of disclosures can be reported via the whistleblowing channel, so not all of the disclosures will result in legal protection for the whistleblower; and not all of the issues raised through the channel will need to be treated as instances of whistleblowing.
Staff should also be notified of the PRA and FCA’s own whistleblowing services, which are separate to the firm's own whistleblowing channel.
It is important that these additional whistleblowing obligations are followed as the regulators (PRA / FCA) will make an express link between how a firm handles whistleblowers and the fitness and propriety of the firm and any relevant employees.