Should advisers get whistle-blower protection?

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has suggested that certain types of advisers should be covered by whistle-blowing protections.

Discussing the shape of possible changes to Australia's whistle-blower protections, ASIC commissioner, John Price has told a Law Council of Australia whistle-blowing seminar that the regulator had suggested the coverage of some advisers as a possible extension of the existing regime.

He said ASIC had suggested consideration of reforms to expressly "extend the definition of people to whom the protections may apply, such as to former employees or directors and confirm inclusion of certain types of advisers".

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Price said ASIC had also suggested extending the types of disclosures that would attract protection, to include possible misconduct under a range of laws, rather than confined to breaches of the corporations legislation.

He said the regulator had also suggested providing ASIC with the power to resist the production of documents where to do so would expose the identity of a whistle-blower.

However, Price warned that some of the changes being mooted with respect to whistle-blower protections would raise some important questions including the ethics around monetary payments to whistle-blowers, and law firms packaging up whistle-blower complaints for regulators for a fee. "Do possible payments to whistle-blowers create conflicts with other duties that particular professions such as lawyers or directors might owe?" he asked and suggested that many people, including regulators, might hold an unstated view that people should not profit from their own misconduct.




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