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Finance professionals bound by laws and Codes of Ethics need guidance and specific legal “whistleblowing” protection too, says ACCA

Date

19 Apr 2016

Sections

Euro & Finance
Trade & Society

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) welcomes MEPs’ plenary vote on the protection of trade secrets, but calls for guidance and clear legal protection for the accountancy and audit profession in their role as whistle-blowers.

ACCA supports the main goal of the Directive on Common Rules for the Protection of Trade Secrets and Confidential Information of EU Companies – which is to prevent the illegal disclosure of trade secrets, without undermining fundamental rights and freedoms or the public interest. The global accountancy body also recommends that the protection of whistle-blowers should also apply to accountants and auditors carrying out their activities in the public interest and under a legal and ethical obligation.

Jason Piper, Senior Manager, Tax and Business Law at ACCA says: “Each business relies - to a greater or lesser extent-  on the competitive advantage conferred by having greater knowledge. A uniform set of protections across the EU to encourage investment into greater knowledge will benefit not just the businesses themselves, but also the society which consumes their products. Accountants have a vital role to play, in helping business understand and value the information which is key to their profitability. Recognising the value of those assets can help both internally with management, and externally with funds raising and reporting obligations. But it is essential that the exercise is carried out with properly qualified professional help.”

“Looking at the other side of the coin, it is important to adequately protect people who are acting in good faith when revealing trade secrets to protect the general public interest. ACCA would thus welcome clear guidance that would protect company auditors, and others who might legitimately come into possession of trade secrets, from the fear of prosecution if they share concerns about  potential unlawful activity linked to these trade secrets in good faith with a regulator,” Jason Piper explains.

If there is no clear carve-out to protect whistle-blowers carrying out statutory functions, obeying other laws  and/or bound by a code of conduct, then the risk exists that wrongdoers could seek to dissuade them through the use of the Directive’s measures. For instance, ACCA members are bound by codes of conduct  - namely ACCA’s own and IESBA’s Codes of Ethics and Conduct -  to act in the public interest, as well as by any statutory provisions under their obligations as auditors, or in complying with the local implementations of the Anti-Money Laundering Directive and similar legislation. If the threat of legal action under the Directive’s measures could discourage reporting of undesirable behaviours then it is important that this threat is removed”, Jason Piper concludes.

-ends-

For further information:

Cecile Bonino , tel: +32 (0) 2 286 11 37or cecile.bonino@accaglobal.com

Notes to Editors

About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. It offers business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

ACCA supports its 178,000 members and 455,000 students in 181 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 95 offices and centres and more than 7,110 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. It believes that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. ACCA’s core values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and it ensures that through its range of qualifications, it prepares accountants for business. ACCA seeks to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating its qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers. More information is here: www.accaglobal.com

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