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Whistleblowing: corporate wrongdoing reporting

The reporting of corporate wrongdoing is such a sensitive topic for companies, entities, and workers themselves that it has required special regulations to protect whistleblowers. Following the 2019 European Directive 1937, a whistleblowing law was also passed in Italy to encourage the reporting of wrongdoing by companies and entities.

Fraud, corruption, environmental crimes are all behaviors that threaten the integrity of the entity and compromise the public interest. To encourage the reporting of such conduct, whistleblowing has been established, a system that guarantees confidentiality on the whistleblower's data and protects him or her from retaliation.

However, it is essential to clarify the concept of whistleblowing, to understand what can be reported and who can make reports.

Article contents:

Whistleblowing: segnalazione illeciti aziendali

What is Whistleblowing?

The term whistleblowing refers to the reporting of wrongdoing within one's work context. That is, if an employee becomes aware that a company or entity is violating a national or European law or committing some kind of crime, he or she can spontaneously report it.

The meaning of whistleblowing seems to be related to the English expression "to blow the whistle," which denotes the action of the referee who reports misconduct on the field. The same gesture is made by authorities to direct traffic or point out illegal actions.

Currently, the person who makes a report of wrongdoing is called a whistleblower or whistleblower. The goal of the whistleblower is to report wrongdoing and draw attention to it.

Whistleblowing: segnalazione illeciti aziendali

Whistleblowing: who can report?

Speaking of whistleblowing, it is essential to know who can make reports. Although wrongdoing can be perceived by both employees and those who come into contact with the company or entity, not everyone is granted the right to report misconduct, but it is precisely the law that makes provisions for possible whistleblowers.

Reporting unlawful conduct within their work context are individuals working in private companies or public administration.

However, it is not only public or private employees, but also employees, trainees, freelancers, external consultants and freelancers.

To clarify the situation, reference is made to the legislation on whistleblowing.

Recently supplemented by Legislative Decree 24 of 2023, the whistleblowing law recognizes the possibility of reporting wrongdoing to certain specific categories:

  • employees of public administrations and employees of independent

  • administrative authorities of guarantee, supervision or regulation

  • employees of public economic entities, private law entities subject to public control

  • employees of in-house companies, bodies governed by public law or public service concessionaires

  • employees of private sector entities, employees, with fixed-term or indefinite contracts

  • self-employed workers, external collaborators

  • freelancers and consultants

  • volunteers and trainees, paid and unpaid

  • shareholders

The pool of possible whistleblowers also includes probationers and former employees. Finally, the regulations apply to the pre-selection process and pre-contractual stages.

Importantly, the protections provided for whistleblowers also extend to others involved in the reporting process, namely facilitators and colleagues.

Whistleblowing: segnalazione illeciti aziendali

Whistleblowing what can be reported

What are whistleblowing reports?

According to whistleblowing regulations, it is possible to report misconduct or wrongdoing within the work context. Violations are defined as "conduct, acts or omissions that harm the public interest or the integrity of the public administration or private entity."

Clarifying what the categories of abuse are allows for a better framing of the concept of whistleblowing. The law states that whistleblowing should be done solely in the public interest and not for personal purposes. So personal grievances, colleague misconduct or claims against superiors in a hierarchical order are not considered.

Article 2 of the legislative decree on whistleblowing defines the possible categories of violations, viz:

  • administrative, accounting, civil or criminal offenses

  • money laundering

  • product safety and compliance fraud

  • violation of environmental protection regulations

  • acts or omissions affecting transportation safety

  • food safety fraud or offenses

  • sexual abuse or harassment

  • acts affecting competition, such as bribery and procurement fraud

  • violation of regulations on radiation protection and nuclear safety

  • conflict of interest

  • financing of terrorism

  • unfair competition

  • accounting malfeasance

  • violation of data protection and privacy regulations

  • acts or omissions against public health

  • conduct detrimental to the financial interest of the European Union

  • access to computer applications with the use of credentials belonging to others

  • lack of transparency in selection or competition processes

So the object of whistleblowing is those behaviors detrimental to the company or the public interest.

Whistleblowing: segnalazione illeciti aziendali

What is the regulatory framework of so-called whistleblowing

Bringing attention back to whistleblowing was European Directive 2019/1937, designed precisely to protect those who report wrongdoing in the work context.

With Implementation Decree 24/2023, the EU directive also came into effect in Italy, where it applies to public and private employment contexts.

Following the approval of the legislative decree on whistleblowing, the National Authority for Anti-Corruption (ANAC) in charge of enforcement gave guidelines for the implementation of the whistleblowing law through several resolutions (Resolution No. 301 and No. 311 of 12/07/2023, Resolution No. 4 of 17/01/2023).

Regarding whistleblowing, Legislative Decree No. 231 of 2001 should be considered, where it establishes the use of an alternative channel for whistleblowing through which whistleblowers can be protected.

The most important regulatory precedent is the anti-corruption law (law number 190 of 2012), whereby a system of protections is provided for those who report wrongdoing in public administrations.

How reports should be handled

Several reporting channels are provided:

  • internal reporting channel

  • external reporting

  • reporting through public disclosure

  • reporting to the authorities

How should the reporter move?

To report wrongdoing, one must first use the internal channel and only gradually use the other channels provided.

Setting up an internal reporting channel has been mandatory since July for companies with more than 250 employees. While, for companies with 50 to 249 employees, the obligation will start on December 17, 2023.

Internal reporting channels must comply with some very specific requirements but, in particular, they must be set up to ensure the confidentiality of the reporter's data and the content of the report.

For more information on managing internal reporting, contact us and request a demo now. We will help you be compliant with whistleblowing regulations and shield your company from sanctions.

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