LONDON (Reuters) - The number of whistleblowing cases opened by Britain's markets regulator has dropped by 40 percent since 2014, a sign that those who question corporate integrity face an increasingly hostile environment, a London law firm said on Tuesday.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) opened 793 whistleblowing cases between January and September 2017, down from 1,360 in 2014, despite tougher rules to protect those who highlight potential wrongdoing, according to a Freedom of Information request by Byrne and Partners.
Whistleblowing, which has been high on the public agenda since the 2007-09 financial crisis, has become an increasingly hot topic since British regulators launched a high-profile investigation in April into Barclays <BARC.L> Chief Executive Jes Staley's attempts to unmask one inside his own bank.
The Byrne and Partners report comes shortly after another law firm, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, published a survey of more than 2,500 business managers across Germany, France, Hong Kong, Britain and the United States that showed more than half thought concerns about reputation and career prospects would prevent whistleblowing within their organisation.
According to that survey, the perceived level of senior management support for whistleblowers since 2014 has dropped to 38 percent from 51 percent in Britain.
Michael Potts, managing partner at Byrne and Partners, said although there was now more robust protection for whistleblowers, the statistics showed Britain was nevertheless becoming "increasingly hostile" for those who alerted others to potential wrongdoing.
"It's clear that not enough is in place to make the difference," he said.
Lord Cromwell, a senior British lawmaker, said earlier this month that whistleblowers in the banking industry were still being gagged and risked ending up broke and unemployed. He suggested adopting the American system of financial compensation to protect them from financial hardship if they raise concerns.
According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, a U.S.-based organisation that offers anti-fraud training, whistleblowers identify almost 40 percent of all detected occupational fraud cases.
(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)