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UK financial regulator wrongly revealed name of RBS whistleblower

An ombudsman for the Financial Conduct Authority said the agency should apologize to a former Royal Bank of Scotland employee after it revealed his name during a whistleblower investigation in 2013.

The FCA’s Complaints Commissioner said the agency wrongly assumed the employee was willing to reveal his identity because he had already identified himself as a whistleblower inside the bank.

But the Complaints Commissioner said there’s “an important distinction between the complainant’s position as a whistleblower within bank X and his position as a potential whistleblower to the FCA.” (Emphasis in original)

The Complaints Commissioner didn’t identify RBS or the employee. But Reuters said a spokesman for Mark Wright, a former RBS employee, confirmed that Wright was the whistleblower.

The Complaints Commissioner ordered the FCA to apologize to Wright but didn’t order payment of any compensation.

The FCA had said it didn’t breach any duty of confidentiality to Wright because his status as a whistleblower wasn’t determined.

But the Complaints Commissioner said the FCA’s arguments were “unconvincing.” The agency classified Wright in its internal database as a whistleblower and referred to him that way in internal correspondence, the ombudsman said.

Wright complained to the FCA after it disclosed his identity in 2013 and failed to extend whistleblower protections to him.

The FCA published a new whistleblower protection policy in early 2015. The new policy says the agency’s “overriding aim” is to ensure anonymity.

“Unless whistleblowers choose to disclose their identity . . . we will do all we can to protect their identity,” the policy says.

The FCA told Reuters it accepted the Complaints Commissioner’s recommendation that it apologize.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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