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Trade secrets: accountants and auditors need specific “whistleblowing” protection too, says ACCA


17 Dec 2015


Trade & Society

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) welcomes the provisional EU inter-institutional agreement on the protection of trade secrets, but remains concerned about the scope for divergence in implementation by Member States.

ACCA believes that 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 -  should be praised.

Jason Piper, Senior Manager, Tax and Business Law at ACCA says: “ACCA particularly supports the new provision on whistle-blowers. It is important to adequately protect people who are acting in good faith when revealing trade secrets to protect the general public interest. However, we note that according to the compromise text,  it will be up to national competent judicial authorities to decide whether the disclosure of a commercial secret was necessary to denounce a misconduct, wrongdoing or illegal activity. We would be concerned about the risk of divergences in national interpretation, which could go against the ultimate aim of strengthening the smooth functioning of the internal market”.

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, explains:  “We believe that the Directive needs to include a specific exemption from prosecution for individuals carrying out statutory functions or obeying other laws, and also protection for professionals who are bound by a code of conduct.   Our 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 any statutory provisions under their obligations as auditors, or in complying with the local implementations of the Anti-Money Laundering Directive and similar legislation.”

It is vital that the Directive is as clear as possible on the exemption from prosecution for accountants who are acting not only in the public interest, but also under a legal and ethical obligation, in blowing the whistle on corrupt or unlawful practices when they discover them. The Directive must avoid creating any uncertainty relating to the fact  that individuals could possibly face sanctions under one Directive for complying with the terms and intentions of another”, Jason Piper concludes.



For further information:

Cecile Bonino , tel: +32 (0) 2 286 11 37or

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:


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