Understanding and anticipating the risks of whistleblowing
According to the ACFE’s Report to the Nations 2022, the whistleblowing system detected 42% of the fraud cases studied and enabled early detection. According to the research, the system is the most effective when compared to other detection tools.
Its efficacy, however, may only be achieved if the organization adopts policies that encourage and support individuals to report or raise their concerns, including providing whistleblowers with protection.
It’s not easy being a whistleblower
One thing we can all agree on is that being a whistleblower is not easy. Intimidation, dismissal, and even violence are potential threats.
A fraud case in question is the one that occurred at Slync. Dozens of its employees were fired after reporting embezzlement at the company, carried out by none other than the CEO himself.
Reporting from the media, a United States Securities and Trade Commission (SEC) report stated that former Slync CEO Christopher S. Kirchner allegedly misappropriated more than $28 million in investor funds to finance his luxurious lifestyle of buying private jets, renting luxury properties, and others.
It was revealed that he paid for his personal expenses directly from the Slync company bank account. Christopher would force employees to make transfers from the company’s account to his personal account without the approval of the board.
This alleged misappropriation occurred from 2020 up until his dismissal as CEO in August 2022. Meanwhile, the employees had to suffer for months since their salaries were withheld.
Retaliation against whistleblowers
The absence of a whistleblowing system—or the presence of an ineffective one—resulted in the fraud lasting for quite some time. In addition, before this case was brought to the public by the media, Christopher allegedly fired several executives who raised their concerns over financial transparency issues at the company.
The former chief financial officer, chief revenue officer, and VP told the board that they never had full access to the company’s accounts, and that Christopher was the only one who had access, including the $60 million investment funding in series B shares.
Based on the report, the three employees were later fired by Christopher. Aside from that, he allegedly suspended dozens of his employees who vocally disclosed the issues of their unpaid salaries to internal and external parties.
Even when he was eventually suspended from his position by the board of directors due to the alleged fraud, Christopher retaliated by blocking the user’s account of several executives from the company’s communication channels.
Lessons to be learned
The fact that reprisals occurred and that the perpetrator of fraud was a top executive clearly indicates the absence of a tone from the top or management support for a whistleblowing system. This includes support in the form of providing a complaint channel that allows confidential and anonymous reporting and an established policy for handling reports.
In addition, for a whistleblowing system to work effectively, organizations need to consistently promote the awareness of the relevant policies to employees. This primarily includes raising awareness of information regarding the protection of whistleblowers.
A way to guarantee the protection of a whistleblower is to provide the option for them to remain anonymous. In addition, the reporting system should also be operated by an independent authority to avoid conflicts of interest.
Organizations can work with third parties to maintain the whistleblowing system’s independence and autonomy. One reliable third party is Integrity Asia. With the support of human resources with integrity and strong cybersecurity technology, Integrity Asia is able to provide a comprehensive whistleblowing system for organizations.
An effective system can detect fraud as early as possible. The earlier fraud is detected, the less loss will be borne by the organization—both material and reputational.
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