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New Zealand Creates New Whistleblower Program in the Financial Sector

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ), New Zealand’s central bank (similar to the U.S. Federal Reserve but wholly owned by the government), has launched a new whistleblower program complete with a phone line and email address dedicated to whistleblower tips and complaints. RBNZ’s general counsel said that a “conduct and culture review” triggered this move and admitted that the national bank has been “behind the times” when it comes to supporting whistleblowers.

Because the RBNZ has regulatory oversight over banks, building societies, credit unions, insurance companies, and finance companies, this is a seemingly significant move to increase supports for whistleblowers. However, this new program still has substantial drawbacks, including a lack of reward provisions to incentivize and support whistleblowing. It also lacks explicit protections against retaliation. Therefore, if there is a sufficient nexus to the United States, New Zealander would still be better off reporting to the SEC through the Dodd-Frank Act Whistleblower procedures.

Advantages and disadvantages to the new RBNZ whistleblower program:

    Advantages:                                 

Unlike the U.S. SEC’s whistleblower program, there is a direct phone line to regulators so that whistleblowers know that their complaints are being received and immediately reviewed.

RBNZ is encouraging the reporting of both legal violations and misconduct, including:

a criminal offence

breach of a legal obligation

a miscarriage of justice

deliberate covering up of any wrongdoing

dishonest or unethical behavior by an individual

concerns that pose a danger to the public or financial system

Whistleblowers may file complaints about the Reserve Bank misusing or disclosing their information with the Privacy Commission at:

https://www.privacy.org.nz/your-rights/making-a-complaint/

The new RBNZ program has a direct and clear focus on banking violations. This focus will allow whistleblowers in the sector to report focused complaints to proper authorities rather than more broadly to the police or ombudsman under the Protected Disclosures Act. Additionally, this is only the first step in a plan for reform: the RBNZ’s review into the conduct and culture of New Zealand’s financial services sector is still ongoing.

 Disadvantages:

No reward provisions.

It is unclear how this program interacts with the broader whistleblower law in New Zealand. This program is not yet “an appropriate authority” to trigger legal programs under the Protected Disclosures Act.

Retaliation, even if interrelated, will be treated separately from whistleblower complaints, and whistleblowers must instead report to Employment New Zealand.

The legal authority for the protections offered under this program is less than clear, which will not help ease whistleblowers concerned with safety and legal protections.

Copyright Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP 2020. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 52

TRENDING LEGAL ANALYSIS


About this Author

Associate

Maraya Best is an associate attorney with Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto. Ms. Best was the 2018 recipient of the highly prestigious and competitive Estelle S. Kohn Memorial Fellowship awarded by Northeastern University School of Law. She graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in May 2018 and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Affairs and Hispanic Studies from Lewis & Clark College. Her background is in international human rights law, which she brings to KKC’s international anticorruption practice.

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