This just in from the Rome bureau: Italy has passed a whistleblower protection law, bringing the country one step closer to modern anti-corruption standards taking root across Europe.
We don’t have all the details yet because, alas, I don’t speak Italian. But a trusted compliance source in Rome alerted me to this article in the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, “Whistleblowing definitive OK at House; it’s law.” A Google translation of the text pretty much supports that conclusion. (If any Radical Compliance reader out there can translate the Italian in more detail, please let me know.)
UPDATE: Our man in Rome pointed me to this English-language summary of the new law from Hogan Lovells’ office in Milan.
The law, which translates into English as “the Whistleblowing Act,” passed in the House of Deputies, 357-46. It strengthens pre-existing whistleblower protections for public-sector employees, and extends those same protections to the private sector.
For example, anyone who reports corruption to Italy’s National Anti-Corruption Authority will have his or her identity protected. The law also prohibits retaliation against any whistleblower whose identity is known by his or her employer for some reason. Where the whistleblower does allege retaliation for speaking out, the article says, “It will be for the employer to prove that discriminatory measures are motivated by reasons beyond the employee’s reporting.”
The law’s primary sponsor was Francesca Businarolo, a member of the Five Star Party. “After studying the law of the United States and having faced experts, but also workers, especially those who made reports by paying first-person consequences, we have decided to file a law for Italy, and to convince all the political forces of its fundamental importance in fighting corruption in the country,” she said. (At least, that’s what Google Translate tells me she said.)
Good governance and transparency groups in Italy have been pushing for a whistleblower protection law for some time. The lower House of Deputies approved legislation in 2016, which promptly went nowhere in the Senate. (Gee, that sounds familiar…) The dawdling prompted Transparency International Italy and and Riparte il Futuro, an anti-corruption group based in the country, to launch a petition drive to prod lawmakers to action, which quickly drew more than 66,000 signatures.
As you can see, the Transparency International folks are pretty psyched today.
GREAT NEWS!! 🇮🇹 #Italy approved a law to protect #whistleblowers! Finally it recognised those who report #corruption need protection. Congratulations to @transparency_it for fighting for this! 💪 pic.twitter.com/5PcQ2aJ0Xk
— Transparency Int’l (@anticorruption) November 15, 2017
I’m unclear on what the potential penalties for whistleblower retaliation would be, or whether the law allows for whistleblower awards like we see under the Dodd-Frank Act. (Although that would be a real stretch.) I assume an English text of the law will be available shortly, and we can learn more then.
In the grand scheme of things, Italy’s step forward might not mean much change for global companies that already operate sophisticated whistleblower programs, complete with anti-retaliation policies. Within Italy, however, this is good news. The country still has an unacceptably high level of corruption for a member of the European Union (it scores only a 47 out of 100 on Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perception Index), and legislation like this sends a message to whistleblowers that they are important, and they will be heard.
So felicitazioni to Italy for stepping up. One more victory in the anti-corruption fight.