The Role of Whistleblowing in Risk Culture and Effective Governance

Carol Sergeant

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who won’t do anything about it.”

Albert Einstein

As we have learnt from earlier chapters, it is the role of boards and senior executives to set what used to be called “vision and values”, now re-named variously as risk appetite, risk culture and “tone from the top”.

Even the best-run organisations face the risk that, at some point, something will go badly wrong. Formal audit and risk processes often fail to identify major issues, or fail to do so at an early enough stage. Typically, the first people to know about risks and wrongdoing will be those who work in or with the organisation, and they are often people in more junior positions. However, these people can be afraid to speak up (sometimes with good reason) and do not always know where and how they can raise issues safely and confidentially. When they do speak out, they are frequently ignored and no action is taken, and in some cases they suffer serious adverse personal consequences, including dismissal, blacklisting and victimisation by colleagues. Gagging clauses, particularly in settlement agreements, are still

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