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ASIC calls for stronger whistleblowing policies

The corporate regulator has written to the chief executives of large public companies, large private companies and the trustees of superannuation funds to ensure their whistleblowing policies are compliant.

The letter comes after ASIC reviewed a sample of whistleblower policies and was concerned they did not address the relevant requirements, leaving whistleblowers unaware of their protections or knowing how to speak up.

In its review, the corporate regulator saw policies that did not list all the categories of people to whom a whistleblower can report misconduct or qualify for protection.

Some policies limited the information to the entities' preferred reporting channels and inaccurately referred to obsolete requirements for whistleblowers to identify themselves or make disclosures without malice in order to qualify for protection.

"We are concerned that such policies will not encourage potential whistleblowers to come forward. As a result, entities may miss opportunities to identify and address potential misconduct," ASIC wrote in the letter.

Entities can address these shortcomings by articulating how a person can make a disclosure that qualifies for the legal protections of whistleblowers.

ASIC also reinforced that entities have an obligation to have a whistleblower policy that reflects the strengthened whistleblower protection regime that started on 1 July 2019.

"We call on chief executives and RSE trustees to discuss this letter within your organisation and to think about the culture of speaking up in your workplace. If the issues we observed from our review are present in your policy, we expect you to address and correct them without delay," ASIC commissioner Sean Hughes said.

ASIC will continue monitoring compliance with whistleblower policies and plans to conduct another review in the future.

Read more: ASICSean Hughes