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The truth will surface

Ever since the Panama Papers reve­lations, two schools of thought have dominated the Times of Malta online discussion board: the school of righteousness v the school of the economy trumps everything. As a person without any vested interest in the matter, I firmly believe that the truth has a habit of eventually surfacing.

What concerns me, however, is whether anyone has spared a thought for the compliance officers and anti-money laundering reporting officers working in the financial services sector. Both roles are mandatory by law and place the role holder in the awkward position of being paid by a licensed financial services firm, while owing reporting duties to the authorities. In other words, a compliance officer and/or money laundering reporting officer is expected to bite the hand that feeds it. A thankless job if ever there was one.

In the United States, whistleblowers may receive compensation for whistleblowing that leads to the conviction of the wrongdoer concerned. This is not in­tended as some award for valour. It is simply an acknowledgement that a whistleblower, or anyone who turns State evidence for that matter, is not likely to have good career prospects, after whistleblowing. Yet in a small country like Malta, with a tightly knit financial services community, blow the whistle they should. 

To compound matters, Maltese employment law adopts a one-size-fits-all approach; that during the probationary period an em­ployee may be dismissed without the employer having to give reasons,  while allowing for a probationary period of up to one year.

In a common scenario, where sales people mis-sell a financial product, the compliance officer should report the breach to the authorities, while raising the matter with the firm’s management body. When the firm is highly profit driven, any rejection of a sales proposal or merely asking for further documentation is likely to trigger a war of attrition with two likely outcomes: ‘voluntary’ resignation or dismissal.

Surely, a compliance officer should not be expected to go through the rigmarole of suing for constructive dismissal? Sure­ly, considering the potential for personal liability that a compliance officer carries, the role deserves better protection at law?

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