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Journal article

Honesty without fear? Whistleblower anti-retaliation protections in corporate codes of conduct

Governance Whistle blowing Business ethics Australia

Whistleblowing is considered to be an integral component of corporate governance through exposing and remedying corruption, fraud and other types of wrongdoing in both the public and private sector. While whistleblowers face a very real threat of retaliation, the current regime which purports to prohibit retaliation against private-sector whistle-blowers is fragmented, complex and suffers from significant gaps. This article argues that in the absence of progress towards comprehensive private-sector whistleblower protection, private commitments contained in corporate codes of conduct may provide an interim regulatory solution by setting a ‘best practices’ benchmark and diffusing norms that influence organisational behaviour and culture. By examining the whistleblower policies of Australia’s 200 largest listed companies, this article further argues that private commitments potentially provide broader protection for whistleblowers than currently available under statute, and, in their strongest form, may provide an alternative route for enforcement, through contract.

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