If employees do not wish to contact their supervisor, Compliance or other persons within VBH in the event of difficulties or problems, they have the alternative of contacting a lawyer of confidence since December 1, 2021. A lawyer of confidence is an independent person of trust to whom employees and third parties can turn if they wish to provide information about irregularities in the company. Topics for which the lawyer of confidence can act as a contact person include:
- theft, fraud
- sexual harassment
- violations of occupational safety guidelines, data protection guidelines, quality assurance guidelines or environmental protection guidelines
- disclosure of confidential information
The lawyer of confidence represents an additional option for the submission of information. His task is without prejudice to the other regulations on complaints and information.
The whistleblower can make use of the lawyer of confidence without costs.
In addition, there is the possibility of submitting an external report. For this purpose, an external reporting office has been established at the Federal Office of Justice (BfJ). In addition to the external reporting office at the BfJ, the existing reporting systems at the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) and the German Federal Cartel Office are also available for their specific areas of responsibility. Further information on the external reporting channels can be found here: www.bundesjustizamt.de/DE/MeldestelledesBundes/MeldestelledesBundes_node.html
As soon as an information is received by the lawyer of confidence, he checks the information for plausibility. If there is a suspicion of a violation of criminal law or a breach of internal rules of conduct – for example the VBH Code of Conduct – he will forward the information, in consultation with the whistleblower and anonymously if necessary, to Compliance or the Data Protection Officer, depending on the subject. The lawyer of confidence accompanies the process, while the responsible department of VBH initiates an investigation of the transmitted facts. The investigated facts are legally evaluated together with the lawyer of confidence and suitable measures to eliminate and prevent incorrect business practices are jointly determined. The lawyer of confidence shall inform the whistleblower about this at the latest after completion of the process to the extent legally possible. In addition, the whistleblower can inquire about the status of the process at any time.
At all times, the anonymity of the whistleblower is guaranteed, as far as this is desired. It is therefore possible for the lawyer of confidence to forward the information anonymously to the responsible department of VBH. All further communication will then take place via the lawyer of confidence, who is subject to the lawyer's duty of confidentiality. The protection of the whistleblower is an essential part of addressing concerns. The whistleblower is protected primarily by the fact that any retaliation directed against him will not be tolerated. The whistleblower's wish for protection of his identity is opposed by the interest of the persons affected by the whistleblowing in disclosure of the facts. Therefore, the conscious abuse of the opportunity to submit complaints and information will not be tolerated. In the event of intentional misuse of the whistleblower system, the lawyer of confidence may exceptionally disclose the identity of the whistleblower to VBH.
Whistleblowers may submit their information in writing (e-mail, letter, fax), by phone or in person to Mr. Thiel von Herff:
Dr. Carsten Thiel von Herff, LL.M.
D – 33602 Bielefeld
Phone: 0521 / 55 7 333 0
Fax: 0521 / 55 7 333 44
Mobile: 0151 / 58 2 303 21
Employees and third parties have the right to point out circumstances that indicate a violation of laws or internal rules. The lawyer of confidence receives this information. He provides a legally protected and confidential area outside the company. He informs the whistleblower about his rights and the procedure of the whistleblower system. The lawyer of confidence shall forward the information to the responsible office in VBH only with the consent of the whistleblower. The lawyer of confidence can be involved in the process as a person of trust. He is available to the whistleblower as a contact person at any time.
All employees and external parties, such as suppliers or service providers, can contact the lawyer of confidence.
The lawyer of confidence receives information about violations of the law and internal violations. The main objective is to clarify and prevent white-collar crimes, accounting fraud and asset misappropriation. However, all violations of the Code of Conduct, e.g. discrimination, can also be reported.
Yes. Only the whistleblower decides what information he will give to the lawyer of confidence and what information the lawyer of confidence should then pass on to VBH. Only in the case of misuse, i.e. in the case of deliberately false information, the lawyer of confidence is authorized to pass on information even against the will of the whistleblower. The lawyer of confidence will inform the whistleblower about this during their first contact.
No, the lawyer of confidence can contacted by anyone free of charge.
Yes, whistleblowers can also contact the lawyer of confidence anonymously. This already applies to the first contact with the lawyer of confidence. If desired, the lawyer of confidence will subsequently maintain the anonymity of the whistleblower vis-à-vis VBH.
The information will be followed up in compliance with the law and internal rules, considering the interests of all parties involved. For this purpose, the lawyer of confidence forwards the information to the responsible department at VBH, usually to Compliance, after prior review.
The whistleblower may contact the lawyer of confidence at any time to find out the status of the case. At the latest after the completion of the process, the whistleblower will be informed of the outcome by the lawyer of confidence to the extent legally permissible.
No, the lawyer of confidence may not represent a whistleblower in official or judicial proceedings. Therefore, the lawyer of confidence cannot and must not initiate any steps to enforce the whistleblower's individual rights or claims in court.
Yes. The lawyer of confidence acts as an independent and autonomous lawyer and is not subject to instructions of VBH in content respects. The lawyer of confidence decides on the basis of his own proper examination whether and to what extent the given information shall be reported to VBH.
The first contact can be made in a phone call, by e-mail, by SMS, by fax, by mail, via the platform www.report-tvh.de or in a personal meeting.
Yes. Every employee can still contact his supervisor, the workers’ council, Compliance and the general management.
Yes. The whistleblower is protected. Any retaliation directed against the whistleblower will not be tolerated.
Despite repeated skepticism, cases of denunciation of the appointment of a lawyer of confidence are very rare. Nevertheless, the lawyer of confidence informs the whistleblower at the beginning of the interview that abuse of the whistleblowing system will not be tolerated and that the lawyer of confidence is obliged to pass on the whistleblower's personal data to VBH in the event of intentional abuse. In any case, employees who intentionally misuse the whistleblower system may face disciplinary consequences.
The lawyer of confidence shall ensure compliance with the statutory retention obligations and the provisions of data protection law. The personal data collected is limited to information on the identity of the whistleblower and the person(s) concerned. The VBH data protection officer regularly checks the conformity of the whistleblower system with data protection regulations.
No. The presumption of innocence applies. Every information is investigated in accordance with the law and internal rules, taking into account the interests of all parties involved. A decision on possible measures will only be made after the process has been resolved.
Insofar as the information was given in good faith, i.e. not intentionally false, the whistleblower does not have to fear any consequences.
No, contacting the lawyer of confidence is voluntary. It has been established as an additional contact point.
Yes. You can visit the lawyer of confidence in person at any time and have a confidential conversation.
Yes, travel expenses will be reimbursed by VBH if they are necessary and reasonable. The lawyer of confidence will take care of the settlement, so that anonymity – as far as necessary – will be preserved here as well.
Yes. At the latest after the completion of the process, the whistleblower will be informed of the outcome by the lawyer of confidence to the extent legally permissible.
No. If the lawyer of confidence is heard as a witness in criminal, civil or other proceedings, he will only disclose the name and identity of the whistleblower if both VBH and the whistleblower permitted him to do so.
Yes. The lawyer of confidence can be contacted in complete confidence. The lawyer of confidence will inform the whistleblower about his rights at the beginning of their conversation. At the end of the conversation the whistleblower can decide whether and in what form the information should be passed on to VBH.
The lawyer of confidence can also be contacted if the whistleblower has committed a criminal offense himself. The lawyer of confidence can inform the whistleblower about his rights; furthermore, a voluntary disclosure will be assessed positively in the context of the existing employment relationship and can have a mitigating effect on punishment in a possible court proceeding.
No. Only in narrowly defined exceptional cases of truly serious criminal offenses, there is an obligation for anyone to pass on information about a criminal offense to the public prosecutor's office.
In this case, the lawyer of confidence may contact the management of VBH directly.
This cannot be answered in general terms. There are information that can be conclusively processed within a few hours. For more extensive investigations, processing can take several weeks.