Whistleblower Law Blog
Topic: Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX)
In deciding Lawson v. FMR LLC, the first whistleblower case they have heard under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that the law’s ambiguous anti-retaliation provision offered two alternatives, both somewhat unappealing:
- Either it doesn’t protect a large class of whistleblowers — in many cases, the people most likely to discover financial wrongdoing;
- Or it protects virtually anyone hired by a publicly traded company or by its employees, either directly or indirectly, and forbids reprisal for a huge range of fraud reports.
Led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a 6-3 majority unflinchingly chose the broader interpretation, instantly giving SOX “a stunning reach,” in the words of a dumbfounded dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
In oral arguments for the first whistleblower case they have heard under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), justices of the U.S. Supreme Court quickly locked onto the important issue: How to interpret SOX’s anti-retaliation provisions without gutting the law — or expanding it without limit.
Led by Justice Stephen Breyer, the hour-long discussion on November 12 — here’s the official transcript — paid scant attention to the most extreme formulations of both sides in Lawson v. FMR LLC. Instead the Court seemed to spend its time groping toward a middle ground that would mostly favor employees.
A federal judge ruled that the Dodd-Frank Act protects whistleblowers from retaliation even if they’re punished by an employer before bringing their concerns to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The ruling is the first explicit repudiation of July’s high-profile Asadi decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which held that Dodd-Frank starts protecting employees only after they report corporate misdeeds to the SEC.
An administrative law judge at the U.S. Department of Labor ruled that a whistleblower’s duplication and removal of confidential information from his employer was a protected activity under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) — and that it was neither unlawful nor a valid reason for firing, as his employer had claimed.
Arguments are shaping up for the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing of its first whistleblower case brought under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX): This week, employee advocates filed an amicus curiae brief for the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP).
The brief was drafted, in part, by The Employment Law Group, P.C.
By holding the Dodd-Frank Act to a literal reading of its language — and rejecting any consideration of the statute’s goals — a federal appeals court has set up a battle over who may claim protection as a corporate “whistleblower” under the law.
“We start and end our analysis with the text of the relevant statute,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said in Asadi v. G.E. Energy (USA) L.L.C. — and indeed, the court parsed Dodd-Frank with the cold eye of a professional copy editor, concluding that the law protects employees against retaliation only if they have reported corporate wrongdoing to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) via prescribed channels.
Another federal appeals court has supported the U.S. Department of Labor in its move toward a more employee-friendly reading of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), holding that the law protects whistleblowers who flag any SOX-related wrongdoing — not just fraud against shareholders.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) upheld all aspects of a $1.2 million award to a whistleblower in a retaliation case under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), echoing a recent Third Circuit decision and lending further authority to the ARB’s landmark Sylvester decision from 2011.
In Barrett v. e-Smart Technologies Inc., the ARB again held that SOX bans retaliation against employees who flag illegal activity that they believe is likely to occur — not just illegal activity that is already occurring.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear its first retaliation case brought under the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).
The Court put Lawson v. FMR LLC on its docket for the term that begins in October 2013.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit won’t grant an en banc review of an earlier panel decision that made it easier for whistleblowers to claim protection under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).
As a result, SOX whistleblowers in that jurisdiction — which includes Pennsylvania and Delaware — now are shielded from retaliation as long as they acted under a “reasonable belief” that their company was acting fraudulently.