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Whistleblowing and self-reporting

Whistleblowing

Are whistleblowers protected in your jurisdiction?

Yes, whistleblowers are protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act, which prohibits the termination of an employee whistleblower, as well as any discriminatory treatment given to a whistleblower, such as demotion or reduction in salary, where such termination or discriminatory treatment is due to the whistleblowing.

However, to qualify as a whistleblower the employee must meet the Whistleblower Protection Act requirements, which state that he or she must:

  • not have a wrongful purpose (eg, obtaining a wrongful gain or causing damage to others by whistleblowing);
  • be reporting about a ‘reportable fact’, which is a fact relevant to:
    • the commission of certain criminal acts, the protection of human life, consumers, the environment, competition and the life, property and interests of Japanese citizens; or
    • violations of administrative penalties, recommendations or orders;
  • be reporting in regard to an act committed by their employer or officers, employees or agents of their employer;
  • report to the designated person in their company or to a government agency with the power to impose penalties in regard to the reportable fact or to any person necessary to prevent the occurrence or spread of damage.

Self-reporting

Is it common for leniency to be shown to organisations that self-report and/or cooperate with authorities? If so, what process must be followed?

Not at this stage. An individual that commits a crime may receive a lighter sentence if they turn themselves in before being identified as a suspect by law enforcement agencies under Article 42 of the Penal Code; however companies are not able to take advantage of this provision.

Companies will be able to take advantage of the new plea bargaining system when it comes into force in June 2018. Under this system, should a company give information to the prosecutors about a crime committed by other individuals or corporations, the prosecutors may at their discretion reduce the penalty given to the company or dismiss the charge completely.

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