April 20, 2018 / 6:45 PM / 3 months ago

EU mulls rules to strengthen protection of whistleblowers

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Whistleblowers may be given greater protection from reprisals when exposing fraud, tax evasion, data breaches and other misdeeds, under new rules proposed by the European Commission.

Whistleblowing has become an increasingly hot topic since two former accounting firm employees were prosecuted in 2016 for leaking data about Luxembourg’s tax deals with large corporations in the so-called “LuxLeaks” affair. The conviction of one was overturned by Luxembourg’s highest court this year.

Under the Commission’s proposed rules, both private and public companies would be required to set up internal reporting channels and do follow-up reports, according to a draft seen by Reuters.

Such channels will have to guarantee the confidentiality of the whistleblower’s identity.

The proposal would also oblige employers or authorities to prove that any lawsuits they bring are not a retaliation against the informers.

The draft says exposing wrongdoing, whether corruption, tax avoidance or public procurement, could save the bloc billions of euros.

The level of protection currently given to whistleblowers varies among the 28 EU countries, with Ireland for example considered to have good laws in place while Cyprus does not have any, according to Transparency International EU.

The proposal, which the Commission will unveil on Monday, will need approval from EU countries and EU lawmakers before it can become law.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Andrew Roche

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