News & Views

Whistleblowing Channels Require a Listener - Hannes Snellman Compliance Trends Seminar Series

25 March 2020

Authors: Johanna Pokela and Maria Wasastjerna

As the number of leniency applications is low globally and competition authorities are pondering how to find alternative sources of supply for competition law complaints, the European Commission’s (EC) initiative may come to play an important role in incentivising whistleblowers in the future.

Up until recently, and especially before the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic that is now first on everyone’s mind, one of the hot topics in the competition law and compliance field more broadly was whistleblowing. This is not least because media’s regular reporting on compliance investigations and proceedings triggered by whistleblowers reporting violations in businesses. Companies are quickly coming to realise the importance of having an effective whistleblowing system in place to detect and promptly deal with potential compliance breaches. However, one of the main reasons why whistleblowing is under a lot of attention is the new EU Whistleblowing Directive. The Directive, adopted in October last year, aims to protect people reporting on breaches of EU law and set minimum standards for whistleblowing protection in Europe. The Directive will come into effect in 2021.

With the arrival of the Directive, companies may face uncertainty with regard to the requirements for internal reporting channels. Who is obliged to implement a reporting channel and how must such a channel be designed? What are the data protection requirements when implementing a channel? Companies that already have an internal whistleblowing system may need to make changes to their systems, depending, for example, on how anonymous reporting is handled, on permissible subject matters, and on internal responsibilities.

At Hannes Snellman, our team of compliance experts regularly advises businesses on issues related to reporting channels and internal investigations. We provide insights into common challenges, new developments, and expected changes around whistleblowing. At our most recent compliance seminar Vihellyksestä poikki, part of our Compliance Trends seminar series, whistleblowing was the key theme and discussion topic. We heard from our Partner Markus Manninen about the most important whistleblower protection mechanisms in light of the new Directive, and our guest speakers Ms Vera Nilsson from WhistleB and Ms Tytti Saarinen from Forensic Risk Alliance shared their views on what to consider when implementing an internal reporting channel. Whistleblowing channels are a valuable asset for companies, as not only do they help mitigating financial and other consequences of misconduct, but they also provide an opportunity to intervene before harm is done. However, Ms Nilsson reminded that a whistleblowing channel is not an end in itself. The benefits of whistleblowing are not achieved if it is not carefully considered how and by whom the received information is processed. Above all, there must be someone willing to listen.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Hannes Snellman’s compliance team. The expertise, experience and insights of our compliance team makes us well placed to provide advice on the most demanding compliance-related matters, as well as to support in questions concerning day-to-day business practices.

Compliance Trends is a seminar & webinar series by Hannes Snellman that discusses important and topical compliance issues for businesses. If you wish to receive invitations to our future events, please contact Ms Emilia Lanu (