The SEC released its Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Report (the “Report”) to Congress on the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program on November 15, 2013. The Report analyzes the tips received over the last twelve months by the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower (“OWB”) and provides additional information about the whistleblower award evaluation process. Read More
Renee B. Phillips
Renee Phillips, a senior associate in the New York office, is a member of the Employment Law Group.
Ms. Phillips’ practice includes a full range of employment litigation and counseling, with particular emphasis on discrimination, sexual harassment and Sarbanes-Oxley/Dodd-Frank whistleblower issues.
Ms. Phillips has successfully defended employers in federal and state court litigations as well as administrative proceedings and arbitrations involving claims of discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, Sarbanes-Oxley 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 and other employment agreements, and conducting internal investigations.
Ms. Phillips is the co-author of the first treatise to be published on the subject of Sarbanes-Oxley/Dodd-Frank whistleblower law.
On November 7, 2013, the U.S. Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (“ENDA”), legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The ban would join similar federal workplace protections based on race, national origin, religion, gender, age, and disability. The issue now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration, where many experts believe the legislation faces an uphill battle. Read More
Two new Dodd-Frank decisions over the last week contain mixed results for employers. Read More
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
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
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
On July 17, 2013, the Fifth Circuit issued the first circuit court decision interpreting Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation provision. In Asadi v. G.E. Energy (USA), L.L.C., the Fifth Circuit held that, to be protected under Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation provision, an individual must be a “whistleblower,” which is defined by the statute as an individual who has made a report to the SEC. Notably, this holding directly conflicts with the SEC’s regulations interpreting the Act, as well as five district court decisions that had all held that employees who make internal reports to company management are protected under Dodd-Frank even if they did not make reports to the SEC. Rejecting these analyses, the Fifth Circuit based its decision on the plain wording of the statute, which it found to be unambiguous in protecting only “whistleblowers” as defined by the Act. Read More
Last week, in Irizarry v. Catsimatidis, Docket No. 11-4035-cv (July 9, 2013), the Second Circuit held that Gristedes Foods CEO—and current NYC mayoral candidate—John Catsimatidis faces personal liability for settlement payments of FLSA claims against his company. The Court determined that Catsimatidis’ active participation in the operation of the company qualified him as an “employer” under the FLSA and could therefore lead to personal liability. Read More
On Tuesday, June 4th, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its first decision interpreting the Sarbanes Oxley Act’s whistleblower protection provision, affirming a decision by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (“ARB”), which held that Lockheed Martin violated SOX by constructively discharging employee Andrea Brown after she had engaged in protected activity. The court applied Chevron deference to the ARB’s employee-friendly interpretations of SOX’s requirements. Read More
In May, another New York federal district court ruled that an employee need not report a disclosure directly to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to be afforded the protections under the anti-retaliation provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, but that internal disclosures within a company are covered. Read More