FAQ

The word ombud (Old Norse: Power) originally means a person’s responsibility to prevent the unfair treatment of individuals within an organisation or in public. The Swedish word ombudsman developed from there meaning “mediator”.

In English, the term ombudsman (or ombudswoman) has become accepted above all as the description of a person who is the person of contact for people whose interests would otherwise be hardly considered.

More and more organisations and institutions appoint an ombudsman, for example, in the field of public administration or in the health sector. In companies, ombudsmen are increasingly employed for clarifying and fighting corruption.
 

 

Who can be an informant?

Any person with knowledge of violations in connection with a company?s activities can be an informant. In the first instance, these will be employees, but also suppliers, agents, competitors, journalists or even state investigation authorities can be informants.

What are violations?

Infringements, the clarification and prevention of which the ombudsman is responsible for, can be corruption offences (e.g. bribery, acceptance of benefit, bribability in commercial transactions) or general economic crimes (e.g. fraud, embezzlement). The ombudsman is also responsible for certain anticompetitive violations (e.g. submission fraud, price rigging). Not only indications towards crimes are important for the company. It is not easy at first glance to decide whether the unusual behaviour of a supplier, for example, is only an individual case or whether a general grievance is behind it. The ombudsman thus also accepts tips that, seen on their own, are only small mosaic stones. Frequently, such a piece of a jigsaw does not lead to a holistic image until there is a connection to other information.

What does it cost me?

No costs are incurred by the informant. The ombudsman is paid by the company.

How is confidentiality guaranteed?

As a lawyer, the ombudsman is bound and entitled to secrecy. Information will not be disclosed until the informant expressly consents to the utilization. Information which is not released by the informant is subject to confidentiality. Neither the company nor state investigation authorities (police, public prosecutor, courts) will learn of it. A lawyer breaching his/her professional obligation of secrecy is liable to prosecution as per 203 of the German Criminal Code.

How do I contact an ombudsman?

You can contact Dr. Rudolph in any way imaginable (telephone, e-mail, fax, post etc.). Usually there will be a one-to-one meeting in our offices after arranging an appointment. In some cases, it is also possible to meet elsewhere. When contacting by e-mail, please remember that confidentiality cannot be guaranteed.

Must I tell the ombudsman my name?

No, you mustn?t. An ombudsman also accepts anonymous information. Yet, meeting up personally is preferable. This enables the ombudsman to ask questions. The ombudsman will never, however, disclose the informants name to third parties against his/her will.

What happens to the information?

The ombudsman passes information about criminally relevant issues released by the informant to a internal company committee (compliance committee). There, the issue is assessed in an orderly procedure and the necessary corporate steps and coordinated with the management. If the indications of criminal behaviour increase, the company will press criminal charges.

To the extent that the informant has agreed to the disclosure of information to the company, this represents at the same time the consent to disclose the information to third parties, in particular to investigation authorities and courts.

Will the ombudsman inform the press and the police?

The ombudsman only informs the company. There it will be decided whether the press, for example, or the state investigation authorities (police, public prosecutor) should be informed. The informant has no claim towards the ombudsman or the company for information to be passed on to other bodies.

What happens then?

After conferring with the company, the ombudsman will inform the informant of the status of the internal or external investigations and results. The informant has no claim to certain information about the further course of events.

What may the ombudsman do in the company?

The ombudsman will make legal statements on the respective issues as well as recommendations for action and clarification. The ombudsman does not have any authority to investigate within the company.

If criminal charges are pressed by the company or other criminal proceedings are initiated, the ombudsman is available in individual cases as the person of contact for investigation authorities and courts upon agreement with the company to the extent that the informant has released the information.

Does the ombudsman become my lawyer?

No, he doesnt. The ombudsman represents the company and is appointed by it to protect the informant's confidentiality. The ombudsman will not assume the informant's mandate.

An informant, for example, who has made him/herself liable to prosecution, may retain a lawyer at any time. The ombudsman will then collaborate with the informant's legal adviser.

What is compliance?

The word originates from medical rules by patients. In an economic sense, it means the observance of laws and regulations by companies.

Nowadays, compliance plays a significant role in companies, as the consequences for a company that has not taken any precautionary measures can be grave. In large companies, so-called Chief Compliance Officers (CCO) are appointed.

Behaviour policy guidelines a company gives itself only make sense if they are not only on paper. They must be lived, reviewed and implemented on all levels.

The external ombudsman is part of an extensive system for preventing and fighting corruption. Besides, the competent Chief Compliance Officer informs and gives advice within the company on issues of the right behaviour, examples for when gifts may be accepted. The internal Compliance Officer is also responsible for the drafting and monitoring of corporate policies on fighting white-collar crime and corruption.

What is a whistleblower?

The term whistleblower describes a kind of referee who makes violations heard of and seen. In a nutshell: Somebody who gets up where others say nothing.

Wikipedia lists the following characteristics of whistle-blowing:

  • Explosive disclosures
  • Selfless motives
  • Sounding the alarm
  • Endangerment of his/her own professional existence

 

Whistleblowers are people who bring forward corrupt practices in an act of civil courage. Frequently, they risk their jobs and reputation.

The ombudsman ensures there are no disadvantages for the informant.

 

Who is the ombudsman not there for?

An ombudsman is not a general complaints office. There are company points of contact for issues such as mobbing, sexual harassment at work, promotions, etc.

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