Kevin (not the whistleblower’s real name) became concerned that his employer’s general approach of selling products to customers could be seen as mis-selling.
He raised his concerns to more senior managers at the company but was met with indifference, with a Director telling him he personally would accept the risk of such practices. Kevin felt that there was a real risk the company was breaching the law and deceiving customers. Kevin took his concerns to the Chief Executive – who dismissed the concerns and refused to interact with or acknowledge Kevin from this point onwards. This signalled to other senior managers in the organisation that it was acceptable to victimise Kevin. Managers now treated Kevin with disdain and contempt. People in the organisation who he knew and liked would now be rude to him. A non-executive director who Kevin tried to approach, to discuss both his concerns and the way he was being treated, refused to speak with him.
Kevin, a talented employee, eventually felt he had no other choice but to leave the organisation – which lost not just a valued and experienced staff member, but also the opportunity to address and correct extremely important reputational and regulatory failings.
The consequences for the organisation were severe. The regulator launched an expensive investigation which the organisation had to conduct. The CEO and the Director were both removed from their roles.
The investigation led to a multi-million pound fine, and significant individual payments for customers impacted by the failures.
Much of this could have been avoided if action had been taken when Kevin spoke up.
A summary of this case study first appeared in our new Preventing Whistleblower Victimisation guide for Employers. Read more here.