UK - Lawyers fear OPRA's guidelines on whistleblowing could become mandatory with fines for non-compliance.
The Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority has just completed a consultation exercise on its revised “voluntary whistleblowing” guidelines and outlined circumstances in which non-statutory reporters – such as trustees, lawyers and administrators – are expected to report.
OPRA states that any legal breaches of trust law, incorrect or late benefit statements should be reported.
But the Association of Pension Lawyers says the proposals are too “harsh” and fear penalties could be imposed for non-compliance.
An APL spokeswoman said legal advisers could not be expected to report in all cases as it would deter clients from speaking to them, leading to potential business losses.
She said: “This document is addressed to people with powers to report, not the duty to report.”
Law firm Wragge & Co partner Jason Coates wrote to OPRA to express his concern.
He said: “This is a serious issue for lawyers as the higher expectation OPRA is proposing cuts across the solicitors’ professional duties of confidentiality and legal privilege.”
The Society of Pension Consultants says the regulator’s intentions are sound but fears they could open the floodgates for reporting “misdemeanours”.
S% general secretary John Mortimer said the guidelines could lead to a defensive mentality of “if in doubt, report”.
The Pensions Management Institute said that a professionally qualified “liaison person” should be identified at every scheme to assist the regulator.
And the National Association of Pension Funds said the guidance removed much of the “nit-picking detailed administrative tasks which currently burden pension scheme providers”.
An OPRA spokeswoman said fines could not be ruled out in extreme cases but this would be a last resort and each case would be assessed on its merits.
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