Renee B. Phillips

Partner
Employment Law
Read full biography at www.orrick.com

Renee Phillips, partner in the New York office and Co-Head of Orrick’s Whistleblower Task Force, focuses her practice on employment litigation and counseling, with particular emphasis on Sarbanes-Oxley/Dodd-Frank whistleblower issues and internal investigations.

Renee has successfully defended employers in federal and state court litigations as well as administrative proceedings and arbitrations involving claims of discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, whistleblowing, trade secret misappropriation and other employment-related claims. She regularly counsels employers on a variety of employment-related issues and assists clients in creating and implementing human resources policies, whistleblower policies, negotiating and drafting executive contracts, restrictive covenants and other employment agreements, and conducting internal investigations.

Renee is the co-author of the PLI treatise, Corporate Whistleblowing in the Sarbanes-Oxley/Dodd-Frank Era. She regularly writes and speaks on whistleblower and other employment topics.

Representative clients and matters:

  • Broadcom. Obtained complete dismissal of a Dodd-Frank whistleblower claim brought by a former in-house counsel.
  • Bank of America. Represented the bank in a high-profile Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower suit at the Department of Labor brought by the former head of its Fraud Investigations Unit.
  • Credit Suisse. Obtained complete dismissal of a Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower case at the Department of Labor, which was affirmed on appeal.
  • Wyeth. Successfully represented this client in several Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower matters.
  • Confidential Investigations. Conducted several internal investigations of alleged misconduct by CEOs, Board members, and other C-suite executives at major financial services institutions.
  • Carrols Corporation. Represented Carrols Corporation, the largest holder of Burger King franchises, in the largest pattern or practice systemic class action for sexual harassment ever brought by the EEOC, EEOC v. Carrols.
  • Sephora. Won a Second Circuit appeal in a national origin and religious discrimination case.
  • Genentech. Won a Third Circuit appeal in a gender discrimination case.
  • Holland & Knight LLP. Obtained a seminal decision in Weir v. Holland & Knight LLP, which held that law firm partners are not covered by statutory discrimination protections.
Renee Phillips

It’s All a Matter of Degree – Fourth Circuit Upholds Four-Year Front Pay Award and Tuition Reimbursement in SOX Case

*This post was drafted with contribution from Ashley Gambone, law clerk.

Affirming a SOX victory for an employee, the Fourth Circuit in a 2-1 decision in Gunther v. Deltek upheld a Department of Labor award of four-years of front pay to a former financial analyst of a software firm and also affirmed an award of tuition reimbursement for a four-year, full time, college degree program.  The Fourth Circuit’s Gunther decision discusses the standards for proving or disproving a causal connection in SOX cases, for meeting the after-acquired evidence standard to cut off damages, and for proving entitlement to front pay and other damages under SOX.

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Hittin’ The Trifecta: Latest Whistleblower Bounty Makes Three Awards In One Week

On Friday, May 20th, the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower issued an order determining that it would award two whistleblowers $450,000 for voluntarily providing original information to the agency that led to a successful enforcement action.  The two tipsters will split the award evenly.  While the order does not provide any specific facts related to the action or the parties, the SEC’s press release describes it as a “corporate accounting investigation.”

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Tipping the Scales: Whistleblower Awarded $3.5 Million For Information That Advanced SEC Investigation

Last Friday, the SEC announced a whistleblower award of more than $3.5 million to an employee whose tip advanced an SEC investigation into the whistleblower’s company.  According to the Order, while the information the whistleblower provided did not cause the SEC to open a new line of inquiry, the information “significantly contributed” to the SEC’s ongoing investigation by focusing the Commission on a particular issue and providing the agency with additional settlement leverage during its negotiations with the company.

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O Canada: The U.S.’s Neighbor To The North Proposes Its Own Whistleblower Program

The Ontario Securities Commission (“OSC”), Canada’s largest securities regulator, has proposed establishing its own whistleblower program for individuals to report suspected securities fraud, marking Canada’s first foray into establishing such a system.

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Avoiding The Risk Of Cybersecurity Whistleblowers

With the rise of the cybersecurity whistleblower, there is a growing trend of whistleblower-initiated regulatory investigations. In this Law360 article, Orrick attorneys Renee Phillips, Aravind Swaminathan, and Shea Leitch examine the DOJ’s investigation, prompted by a cybersecurity whistleblower, into whether Tiversa Holding Corp. provided false information to the Federal Trade Commission about data breaches at companies that declined to purchase its data protection services. The article discusses what companies can do to protect themselves against this growing risk.

Bonus Points: ARB Upholds Whistleblower Order Challenging Bonus Plan

The Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (“ARB”) recently upheld an order finding a semiconductor company had constructively discharged a manager who complained the company’s bonus plan violated state wage and hour laws, and in doing so, broadly interpreted the protections offered under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX” or “Act”).

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Can You Hear The Whistle Blowing?: OECD Releases Report On Global Whistleblower Protections

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (“OECD”), an international organization whose goal is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people across the world, recently published a report entitled “Committing to Effective Whistleblower Protection” (the “Report”).  A booklet containing the highlights of the report is available here.  In the Report, the OECD reviews whistleblower laws and practices within its 34 member countries, making it a useful resource for multinational companies doing business around the world.

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Three’s Company: SEC Awards Nearly $2 Million to Whistleblower Trio

On March 8, 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an order awarding a trio of whistleblowers a bounty of almost $2 million.

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Where Have You Gone Dennis Kozlowski? Third Circuit Dismisses Tyco Employee’s Whistleblower Claim Over Excessive Corporate Spending

On February 2, 2016, the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a long-running SOX whistleblower suit filed by Jeffrey Wiest, a former accounts payable manager for Tyco Electronics.  The decision is the first in which the Third Circuit has defined the “contributing factor” causation standard for SOX retaliation cases and provides helpful guidance on the issue.

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For Whom The Whistle Blows:  SEC Whistleblower Office Issues Its 2015 Annual Report

The SEC released its Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report (the “Report”) to Congress on the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program on November 16, 2015. The Report analyzes the tips received over the last twelve months by the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower (“OWB”), provides additional information about the whistleblower awards to date, and discusses the OWB’s efforts to combat retaliation against whistleblowers.

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