In a Law360 article (subscription required), Steve Pearlman, co-head of Proskauer’s Whistleblowing & Retaliation Group, offered ways for companies to minimize their potential whistleblower liability. Underlying Pearlman’s advice is the premise that “[i]t is better for the company and the shareholders alike for complaints to be lodged internally and to be brought to the company’s attention promptly, so they can be swiftly investigated and any underlying concerns can be rooted out.”
One way to strengthen a company’s in-house compliance program is to appoint a “whistleblower liaison,” Pearlman added. “Often somebody from HR fits the bill,” he continued. “An employee needs to know that when they blow the whistle, their complaint is being taken seriously and they’re not going to suffer retaliation. Appointing a trained HR liaison to give an employee those assurances and work with an employee [on] his or her concerns often pays significant dividends.
Pearlman also stressed that “[a] good faith complaint can actually save the company a tremendous amount of heartburn and headache.” “Companies that feel it’s too difficult to quantify how much benefit an internal whistleblower complaint confers on the company, or don’t feel they can compete with financial incentives like those available under the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s bounty program, can offer perks like formal recognition from an executive or a positive note in a performance evaluation,” Pearlman emphasized.
It is imperative, therefore, “to work cooperatively to provide a richer and more informed vetting process,” Pearlman commented. “Having a compliance committee that is comprised of the right subject matter experts and has adequate representation from the stakeholders in the whistleblower process is a must.”
Pearlman concluded that it is in the best interest of employers to treat employees with respect and let them leave with dignity, even if they have been fired for cause. And “it’s important for employees to understand that the most effective way of raising concerns is to use the compliance channels that are already provided.”