You might not have heard about him yet, but he was also involved in the LuxLeaks papers revelation — Raphaël Halet has just lost his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Halet considered the fine of €1000 imposed by the court of Luxembourg a violation of his freedom of speech, but ECHR only confirmed that the actions of Halet harmed the reputation of the employer. Consequently, Halet will have to pay a symbolic but still meaningful fine of €1000 for disclosing the information on his employer - a well-known audit and consulting company PwC.
Who is Raphael Halet and why it's important?
Raphael Halet is one of the whistleblowers who are the part of 'revelation group' of LuxLeaks (Antoine Deltour, Edouard Perrin) - his first report on PwC tax evasion assistance was first revealed in 2015. What is significant here is a non-disclosure agreement that Raphael Halet signed and had to be compliant with. LuxLeaks got the attention of the EU and triggered multiple changes in tax control, but guess what - the same attention got from the whistleblowers who leaked the documents on tax evasion.
Despite tremendous support from the world community of journalists, politicians, and ordinary citizens, both Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet had to appeal to the court to prove the legitimacy of their actions and get whistleblower status. It took years for Antoine Deltour to be recognized as a whistleblower, but Raphael Halet failed in this.
In May, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the fine imposed by the Luxembourg court didn't violate the right to freedom of expression. Halet still has to pay for disclosing the information on PwC. The decision of ECHR is worrying simply because whistleblowers already feel threatened and discouraged from reporting — the fact that in the end, they might appear guilty doesn't add up to the good reputation of whistleblowing.
ECHR made an important statement, recognizing that the Luxembourg Court was a fair balance between the interests of the employer and those of the whistleblower. Still, we should understand that not all whistleblowers could afford legal aid and penalties associated with the disclosure in the long run.
The case of Raphael Halet is prominent for one more reason: there will be more cases like this in the future, and their outcome is not known. The EU Whistleblowing Directive protects both sides — the employer and the whistleblower —, and in some specific cases, the whistleblower might be penalized for obtaining the information to which he or she initially didn't have access. We'll continue to update you with more details of the cases — meanwhile, we can only advise you to learn more about the Directive and the legal ways to report the misconduct.
Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash