Whistleblower Protection Law Firm Publishes Article About Breakout Year for Whistleblower Rewards and Protections
Today Law360 published an article by whistleblower lawyers Jason Zuckerman and Dallas Hammer titled “A Year For Whistleblower Rewards And Protections.” The article discusses recent developments that render 2014 a transformative year in the development of whistleblower law. In particular, whistleblowers have obtained record recoveries: roughly $435 million under the False Claims Act, and more than $31 million from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Whistleblower Rewards Program. And recent administrative and judicial interpretations of Sarbanes-Oxley have rendered it a potent remedy to combat whistleblower retaliation.
In addition, the article discusses the following developments in whistleblower rewards and whistleblower protections:
- In 2014 the SEC exercised for the first time its authority under the Dodd-Frank Act to protect whistleblowers from retaliation. Taking enforcement action for whistleblower retaliation is a critical step in building the SEC’s Whistleblower Program because it signals that SEC Office of the Whistleblower intends to vigorously protect whistleblowers.
- In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that SOX protects employees of contractors, subcontractors, and agents of public companies. See Lawson v. FMR, 134 S. Ct. 1158 (2014).
- In March 2014, SOX whistleblower Catherine Zulfer obtained a $6 million jury verdict. Zulfer alleged that her employer, Playboy Enterprises, Inc., terminated her employment in retaliation for refusing the CFO’s instruction to set aside $1 million for discretionary executive bonuses that the board of directors had not approved. This record verdict will likely spur SOX whistleblowers to exercise the removal option in SOX and try their claims before juries.
- During 2014, several federal appellate courts adopted or deferred to the ARB’s broad construction of SOX, as articulated in its May 2011 decision in Sylvester v. Parexel.
- In 2014, the ARB defined in detail the standard that an employer must meet to establish the same decision affirmative defense. See Speegle v. Stone & Webster Construction, ARB 13-074, 2005-ERA-006 (ARB Apr. 25, 2014). The standard is high, especially in comparison to the burden-shifting framework employed under most other anti-discrimination laws. Speegle will be a powerful tool for whistleblowers to combat employer’s use of post-hoc justifications for a retaliatory adverse action.
- Last month, the Fifth Circuit held that outing a whistleblower is a prohibited adverse action, even where the whistleblower has not suffered economic damages. Halliburton, Inc. v. ARB, No. 13-60323 (5th Cir., Nov. 12, 2014).
To learn more about recent developments in whistleblower rewards and protections, download the following article that Zuckerman Law co-authored: Developments and Trends in Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Litigation.