Brazil is a signatory country of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, enacted by Decree 5.687/2006. Article 33 of that decree establishes that participating countries will consider appropriate measures to protect those who report corruption to the competent authorities.
In addition, an interagency organization called the National Strategy to Combat Corruption and Money Laundering (ENCCLA) has addressed the subject of whistle-blowers in Act n. 4 of 2016.
The term in Portuguese for whistle- blower is denunciante. However, it is more common to use the English term and the definition used by the international legal community: any person who takes relevant information about an illicit civil or criminal act to the authorities.
Recently, Law 13.608/2018 was published in Brazil, requiring that phone lines be in place to receive whistle-blower reports and granting the possibility of rewards to whistle-blowers.
Anonymity and reward
Although communication channels to anonymously report illegal activities are already well-established in Brazil, not until 2018 was such anonymity actually guaranteed by law.
Law 13.608/2018 established the right for the whistle-blower to be anonymous. Additionally, those who opt to identify themselves to the authorities can keep their identity secret from the public.
The same law mentions the possibility of paying rewards for information that could help solve crimes. To receive a reward, whistle-blowers have to reveal their identity to the authorities.
Whistle-blower reports of illegal activities are not common in Brazil. Perhaps if more detailed legislative protections are passed in the future, such activities will become more frequent.
A more common occurrence has been for people involved in illegal activity to report it, rather than whistle-blowers who have had no involvement.
In such cases, those who report illicit activity may get a reduction of the penalties applicable. Several corruption cases were recently identified in Brazil after one of the people involved provided information to the authorities.
Whistle-blowing at companies
Brazilian companies usually adopt a telephone channel to allow employees to report inappropriate or illicit behaviors. The identity of the whistle-blower is not published, and an internal investigation is carried out. Once the information is confirmed , it is common for the whistle- blower to be dismissed. If it is found that the employer is justified in terminating an employee, the employee may lose most labor rights.
It is important that more detailed local legislation about whistle-blowing be enacted in Brazil, so that people will feel more comfortable about reporting illicit activities. If people are not sure that their anonymity will be preserved, they may not want to cooperate because it may result in exposure and risk.
In addition to the law, stronger communication is needed about the whistle-blower issue, to encourage people to safely report any illicit activities. The establishment of more rewards would also have a positive impact.
Country-by-country and EU whistle-blowing rules need to be taken into account in setting the best practices and policies in this growing area of risk, including what an employer must do when faced with a whistle-blower claim, such as whether an investigation is required, protections of the employee who complained of company practices and litigation issues.
Best practice requires companies to take action in advance by creating a hotline and training its employees in ethical behavior.