Ensuring a safe and accountable work environment is crucial for both employees and employers. In recent developments, the Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Improvement Act, part of last year’s omnibus spending bill, has taken center stage, raising the stakes for whistleblowers and posing new challenges for employers. Let’s dive into the implications of the new law and its potential impact on employers and explore how businesses can navigate these changes and foster a culture of transparency and compliance.
Whistleblower Rewards Take a Leap
The Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Improvement Act introduces significant changes to the rewards whistleblowers can receive. Under the new law, whistleblowers are eligible to claim 10% to 30% of any monetary sanction imposed by the government, exceeding $1 million for money laundering cases. This powerful incentive has caught the attention of legal experts and is expected to trigger a wave of new claims by whistleblowers.
Gregory Keating, an attorney at Epstein Becker Green in Boston, believes the amendments are designed to enhance the monetary recovery for whistleblowers and align with the highly successful whistleblower program under the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) established by the Dodd-Frank Act. Whistleblower awards have been known to reach millions or even tens of millions of dollars, attracting law firms’ attention to focus on whistleblowing cases and leading to an increase in tips submitted to the government.
The Biden Administration’s Support
In a policy statement issued on September 13, 2022, the Biden administration expressed its support for the new law, emphasizing the crucial role of whistleblower protections in promoting public accountability and integrity. This support highlights the growing understanding of the value whistleblowers bring to safeguarding democracy.
Challenges and Opportunities for Employers
With the changes in whistleblower rewards, employers must be proactive in addressing potential challenges and seizing opportunities to create a safer and more transparent workplace.
1. Enhance Speak-Up Policies:
Employers should strengthen their speak-up policies to encourage employees to report concerns without fear of retaliation. An open and safe reporting environment is essential for fostering a culture of compliance.
2. Improve Investigation Protocols:
Adopt robust investigation procedures to address concerns raised by whistleblowers promptly and impartially. Timely and fair investigations signal a commitment to accountability and can help prevent further issues.
3. Invest in Training:
Front-line managers play a pivotal role in responding to whistleblowing concerns and avoiding retaliation. Investing in their training will equip them with the knowledge to handle such situations effectively.
4. Integrate Whistleblower Law into Policies:
Employers must weave the new law into existing whistleblower protection provisions, business ethics policies, whistleblower hotline procedures, and anti-retaliation policies. Ensuring alignment with the law demonstrates a commitment to compliance.
5. Stay Compliant with Anti-Money Laundering Laws:
Compliance with U.S. anti-money laundering laws is of paramount importance. Employers must remain up-to-date on sanctions levied against other countries and maintain full compliance.
6. Recognize Retaliation Risks:
Federal law strictly prohibits employers from retaliating against whistleblowers. Employers need to be vigilant in recognizing potential retaliation claims, especially with increased penalties and remedies.
7. Understand Evolving State Laws:
Many states, including New York, Virginia, and California, are expanding protections against retaliation for whistleblowers. Employers must be aware of these developments and ensure compliance.
8. Embrace Positive Change:
Whistleblower complaints can be an opportunity to strengthen compliance programs and demonstrate a commitment to integrity and accountability. Prompt investigations and corrective actions showcase a true culture of compliance.
Why It Matters
The Anti-Money Laundering Whistleblower Improvement Act signifies a new era for whistleblowers, and employers must be prepared. Navigating these changes requires dedication to creating a workplace that fosters transparency and encourages employees to speak up without fear of retaliation. Embracing whistleblower protections can benefit both employees and employers, leading to a more accountable and trustworthy work environment. As we move forward, let us join hands to empower whistleblowers and build a safer and more just society. OnderLaw is here to fight for justice, contact us today for your free, no-obligation consultation.