Anonymity can be relative when the reporting process is in-house.
On December 15, 2018, in a story carried by all the major news publications globally, it was reported that Barclays was penalized $15M for attempted security breaches by their CEO James (Jes) Staley, who attempted to unmask a whistleblower. (1)
Although the complaint was of a “non-threatening” nature, in his attempt to uncover the complainant, Mr. Staley went so far as to engage federal law enforcement resources by providing, “incomplete or inaccurate information” to try to find out who authored the complaint. (2)
Mr. Staley had repeatedly been advised to abandon his efforts in trying to identify the individual who sent the letters- these same warnings were issued to him by the General Counsel and the Chief Compliance Officer as well. (3)
Staley and his IT security team’s initial attempt to identify the complainant ceased after both were told, “their actions were inappropriate“. However, a month later, under Staley’s direction, Barclays’ security specialists engaged the help of a US law enforcement agency [in an attempt to find out who the complainant was]…but came up empty. (4)
Regardless of Staley’s motive, the investigation discovered actions committed by top executives that not only subjected the bank to risk but, also cast doubt on the bank’s integrity to uphold its own policies regarding the anonymity of the whistleblower program that was implemented for those who want to escalate issues of concern.
Although Mr. Staley took ownership of the situation and apologized, and Barclays let him keep his job after a pay cut and written reprimand, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, now investigating the matter, could decide to ban Staley from working in financial services, costing him his job.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Observes 5% Rise in Retaliation
Another recent story validated the ongoing issues of retaliation after an individual had reported the inappropriate behavior of a supervisor using the company’s anonymous tip line.
Although the #MeToo movement is about empowering victims of harassment to find their voice and speak out without fear of retribution, the EEOC’s acting head, Victoria Lipnic, stated that there has been a 5% rise in claims of retaliation, specifically in the reassignment of duties and the creation of hostile working environments, including people getting fired. (5)
Wells Fargo company hotline
The Wells Fargo story took center stage with WF terminating 53,000 people for engaging in the creation of millions of fake accounts, fake bank cards, and fake email accounts
However, one individual went public following his termination. “I called the Wells Fargo ethics line and was fired”, says Bill Bado, a former Wells Fargo employee who was fired eight days after calling a hotline and emailing HR in September 2013, regarding unethical and illegal practices. He stated that he had received instructions from superiors to open fake accounts and he had reported this through the company’s hotline and was summarily fired in retaliation. However, Wells Fargo stated the reason for his termination was “tardiness”. (6)
These cases are indicators of a wider level of executive influencing and internal meddling, in spite of any measures put in place vouching for the anonymity of the tip lines. Keeping the reporting process internal to the company allows for a core vulnerability to exist, where attempts to identify the individuals reporting infractions are able to be achieved. They make a compelling argument for the peremptory need of a platform that provides absolute, independent anonymity.
TellZen Employee Communications Platform
TellZen Employee Communications Platform brings employee issues and insights to HR and Management by removing your employee’s fear of retaliation, providing secure third party anonymity. TellZen’s system removes the ability to tamper with or identify the individual who is reporting; the interactions occur on TellZen’s third-party servers, far removed from the influence of any CEO, IT Security, HR, or anyone else involved in the case. Each individual who reports a situation is identified by a unique code that cannot be linked to the person reporting. The communications and case examination are captured, documented and housed externally on secure TellZen servers.The anonymity of the individual employee is completely protected!
For more information and a free TellZen Demonstration of the platform and how this anonymity is achieved, click here. To test a Free, Anonymous Employee Survey use this link, email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call us at (617) 571-4609 and find out how you can provide secure anonymity to your employee communications platform.
Remember: Not all anonymous tip lines are anonymous.