Antibribery Group Presses Netherlands to Strengthen Whistleblower Protections
09 Nov 2020

The Netherlands has ramped up its enforcement of foreign bribery since 2012, but it still faces challenges in prosecuting individuals and fully using its whistleblower protection program, an international antibribery watchdog said.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions, in a report published Thursday, lauded the Netherlands for progress the country has made since the last evaluation in 2012, including the creation of new investigative and prosecutorial frameworks against foreign bribery, and new regulation for protecting whistleblowers.

The report is part of the fourth phase of a continuing peer review by the OECD Working Group on Bribery to monitor and evaluate the 44-member nations’ implementation and enforcement of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. This phase focuses on enforcement, detection and corporate liability, and assesses each country’s needs and how it has implemented the recommendations from the previous evaluation.

The recommendations in the evaluation reports are intended to help member countries put in new measures that would strengthen their efforts to prevent, detect and investigate foreign bribery with the adoption of standards established by the Convention. Member countries, including the Netherlands, are asked to submit written follow-up reports within a few years after the evaluation report to enumerate on how they implemented the OECD recommendations.

Dutch enforcement agencies have opened 26 new foreign-bribery investigations in the past eight years, a jump from four in 2012, according to the report.

But the OECD expressed concern that only seven companies and two individuals were punished in five foreign-bribery cases to date, all through nontrial resolutions. The group noted that the number of cases resolved was small relative to the size and risk profile of the Dutch economy.

The Netherlands enacted legislation in 2016, called the Whistleblower Authority Act, that largely governs the reporting mechanisms and whistleblower protection in the country, following the OECD’s recommendations from its last evaluation.

Still, no foreign bribery cases have been detected by whistleblowers in the Netherlands and the law failed to provide comprehensive protection to whistleblowers, the OECD said, noting that there have been instances of retaliation against those reporting foreign bribery.

By Mengqi Sun, The Wall Street Journal, 6 November 2020

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