Babysitters at the Gate: The Supreme Court’s Radical Expansion of SOX’s Whistleblower Protections

Yesterday, in Lawson v. FMR LLC, a divided U.S. Supreme Court decided its first case addressing the whistleblower protections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).  The question before the Court: do those protections extend only to the employees of public companies, or do they also reach the employees of contractors and subcontractors of public companies?  You can see our prior posts on the case here (June 19, 2012), here (October 8, 2013), here (January 7, 2014), and here (January 28, 2014). Read More

Complaint about Foreign Tax Violations Sunk Under SOX

On February 12, 2014, the Fifth Circuit in Villanueva v. U.S. Department of Labor held that an employee did not engage in protected activity under SOX when he reported alleged violations of Columbian tax laws to U.S. executives at his employer. Read More

Bon Voyage! Dodd Frank Whistleblower Claim Shipped to Arbitration

In Murray v. UBS Securities, LLC, Judge Failla in the Southern District of New York compelled arbitration of a Dodd-Frank whistleblower retaliation claim, holding that nothing in the anti-retaliation provision, 15 U.S.C. 78u-6(h), precludes the arbitration of these claims. Read More

Compelling Individual Arbitration Violates National Labor Relations Act? It Does According to ALJ

Joining the ever growing list of opinions on the arbitrability of class claims, an NLRB Administrative Law Judge recently ruled that an arbitration agreement that did not expressly bar workers from bringing class or collective actions still violated federal labor law because the employer’s steps taken to enforce the agreement in court had the practical effect of doing so. Read More

San Francisco “Flexible Workplace” Measure May be Tip of the Iceberg of Increasing Local Employment Regulation

October 2013, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the “Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance,” which if signed by the mayor will expand protections for workers with family care-giving duties and require employers to take requests for flexible work arrangements seriously. The measure creates a new, “only in San Francisco” protected category of workers that employers will likely have to keep in mind when making workplace decisions, as Mayor Ed Lee has indicated his intention to sign the measure into law.   Read More

Take Heart, Companies Can Win Whistleblower Cases: Two Key Victories Last Week in SOX and Dodd-Frank Cases

Two victories for employers last week in Dodd-Frank and SOX whistleblower cases may provide a basis for at least a sliver of optimism among employers and whistleblower defense lawyers hammered by a recent series of employee-favorable decisions under the two main federal statutes covering whistleblowing activity. Read More

SEC Issues Huge Bounty Award of $14 Million to Whistleblower under Dodd-Frank

Today the SEC announced that it is issuing a whistleblower award of over $14 million to a whistleblower who provided information that resulted in the recovery of investor funds. The significant whistleblower award comes after many critics have questioned the success of the SEC’s whistleblower award program which, to date, has only issued two much smaller awards since the program’s inception in 2011. The first award payment was issued in August 2012 for approximately $50,000. The second award, paid to three whistleblowers for information that stopped a sham hedge fund, has paid out approximately $25,000 with an expected total payout of $125,000. Read More

IRS Confirms its Position that Settlement Payments Allocated to Attorneys’ Fees are Not Wages

Employers frequently ask whether the portion of an employment-related settlement allocated to attorneys’ fees must be treated as wages and subjected to income and employment tax withholding and Form W-2 reporting where a plaintiff’s claim is based on statute that provides for the recovery of attorneys’ fees (a so-called “fee-shifting statute”). The answer was not entirely clear based on conflicting guidance from the IRS. Fortunately the IRS recently confirmed its view in LAFA 20133501F (July 11, 2013) that where a plaintiff’s claim is based on a fee-shifting statute, the amount of the settlement that is clearly allocated to attorneys’ fees and that is reasonable in amount is not wages for employment tax purposes. Read More

SOX Gone Wild: Misappropriation and Transmission of Confidential Company/Employee Data to the Government Protected under SOX

A whistleblower who took sensitive company data from his employer and turned it over to the IRS has won his retaliation claim at the Department of Labor under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s (“SOX”) whistleblower protection provisions. In Vannoy v. Celanese Corp., ALJ Case No. 2008-SOX-00064, ARB Case No. 09-118 (ALJ July 24, 2013), an Administrative Law Judge was presented with the question of whether Vannoy’s removal of highly sensitive company data and transmission of that data to the IRS constituted protected activity under SOX. Vannoy, who was formerly employed as the administrator of Celanese’s corporate credit card program, first allegedly complained internally that the company “misstated their financial records and underestimated their required tax burden potentially in millions.” Vannoy sought legal counsel and eventually reported the company’s alleged accounting misconduct to the IRS.  Read More