Global Whistleblower Hotlines: Update the Whistleblower Hotline Provision in Your Global Code of Conduct to Account for Rules in Europe and Beyond

    / Event
    Live PLI Groupcast

    Few US-headquartered multinationals have revisited or restructured their global in-house whistleblower hotlines in recent years. That means their hotlines have become outdated and, in many respects, more awkward and complex than necessary. Please join the PLI presenter for a fast-paced session that offers a rare update, and strategy tips, for how a multinational can sponsor a streamlined, state-of-the-art global whistleblower hotline in the 2020s.

    A well-designed whistleblower hotline is a cornerstone of any corporate compliance or social responsibility initiative. To Americans, the utility of an in-house report channel is obvious. However, overseas, whistleblower hotlines carry cultural baggage and even run into legal hurdles. Back in 2005, US companies were caught off guard when hostility to hotlines in Europe sparked unexpected new restrictions that affirmatively outlawed some US-designed report channels. The Wall Street Journal ran an article on the controversy called “Tip Line Bind: Follow the Law in U.S. or EU?” quoting someone who said the US-versus-Europe conflict of “hotline laws” effectively tells multinationals to “chop off [their] left hand or chop off [their] right hand.” Then, for more than a decade, multinationals built up cumbersome global report channels that spawned separate mini-hotlines for different European states, that closed off hotlines to anonymous tips from some (but not all) European whistleblowers, and that rejected whistleblower reports on sex harassment and other human resources violations.

    Back when this legal friction around hotlines was roughest, it drew a lot of attention from the press and within multinationals. Much less-noticed has been, in recent years, a quiet but significant relaxation. The social taboo in Europe against anonymous whistleblowing is dying, as France, Germany and other European states now promote government-run anonymous whistleblower hotlines. And the GDPR, the otherwise-stricter new EU data protection law, actually eliminated certain old hotline restrictions, like France’s notorious hotline-registration requirement. Still, though, compliance remains key: Most of the old doctrines remain in place, only less-rigorously enforced. And new European “hotline law” doctrines have emerged, like processing GDPR sensitive data on “criminal offences.”

    This session offers a workshop for a multinational updating its global whistleblower hotline, and covers:

    • Why international “hotline law” became an urgent corporate compliance in 2005, and how multinationals responded
    • The interplay of laws, internationally, affecting hotlines: employment law; data protection law/the GDPR; and whistleblower retaliation law
    • The significant (but quiet) loosening of hotline-law restrictions in Europe, and how the GDPR changed the game
    • Practical tips and strategies: how to update, streamline and restructure a multinational’s global whistleblower hotline for the 2020s

    This program is accredited for CLE – Continuing Legal Education.

    For more information or to register, contact Robin Hallagan, +1 216 479 8115.

    There is a cost for attending this PLI program.