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Whistle-blowers and other aggravations

Published on 10 January 2012
Updated on 05 April 2024

Just imagine: a whistle-blower has gone public with secret or confidential information concerning your government. A journalist calls on you to confirm the rumor. What do you do? If you are a loyal civil servant, you’ll hang up, shut up, or usher the journalist elegantly out the door – depending on your wit and temperament. Under certain circumstances you may even have to rat on him to the police (or at least to your superiors) Otherwise you become an accessory after the fact. Switzerland has just gone through the trauma of “whistle-blowing”. The head of its National Bank has been party/accessory to an insider deal. A political figure violated bank secrecy laws and “blew the whistle” on the transaction. The defense proved weak and vacillating, if not inept. The Head of the National Bank resigned. The Department of Justice will now investigate whether there is enough evidence to drag the whistle-blower into court. The National Bank will sedulously write “good governance” rules. Without entering into the specifics and legalities, I see three culpable “errors”.

  • The insider deal, no matter what, flies in the face of good governance.
  • If proven, violating bank secrecy laws is a crime in Switzerland, and should be dealt with sternly. The fact that it was all a political vendetta, of course, is totally extraneous to the behavior of the political figure as well as the acribious pursuit of retributive justice.
  • The worst culpable “error”, however, and the one which has yet to find its expression in the chattering press: is something else. The Head of the National Bank violated the iron political rule: Thou shalt not embarrass your government.

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