IRS Scripts a New Tune with Final Whistleblowing Regulations

Section 7623 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), added in 1954, authorizes the Treasury Secretary to pay an award as he deems necessary for “(1) detecting underpayments of tax, or (2) detecting and bringing to trial and punishment persons guilty of violating the internal revenue laws or conniving at the same.”  The program was significantly enhanced in 2006 as part of the Tax Relief and Health Care Act with the addition of Code section 7623(b), which provides that if the Treasury Secretary proceeds with any  action based on information brought to the Secretary’s attention by an individual, such individual will receive as an award at least 15% but not more than 30% of the collected proceeds (including penalties, interest, additions to tax, and additional amounts) resulting from the action (including any related actions) or from any settlement in response to such action.  The determination of the amount of such award by the IRS Whistleblower Office, which was created by the 2006 legislation, depends upon the extent to which the individual substantially contributed to such action.

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Second Circuit Holds Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Provision Does Not Apply Extraterritorially

Last week, in Liu v. Siemens, AG, the Second Circuit held that the Dodd-Frank Act’s whistleblower retaliation provision (15 U.S.C. 78u-6(h)(1)) does not apply extraterritorially, in the first Second Circuit decision to address the international scope of Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower protections against retaliation.  Liu, a citizen and resident of Taiwan, was a compliance officer for Siemens China Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Siemens AG.  Siemens AG is a German corporation with shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange.  Liu claimed Siemens wrongfully terminated his employment in retaliation for reporting that Siemens China Ltd. employees were making improper payments to Chinese officials in North Korea and China in connection with the sale of medical equipment in those countries, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”).

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Second Circuit Rejects Definitively and Specifically Standard But Upholds Dismissal of SOX Whistleblower Complaint in Nielsen v. AECOM

Last week, the Second Circuit upheld a district court’s dismissal of a plaintiff’s Sarbanes-Oxley (“SOX”) whistleblower claim – but not before rejecting the “definitively and specifically” standard on which the district court’s decision relied.  Nielsen v. AECOM Tech. Corp., No. 13-235-cv (2d Cir. Aug. 8, 2014).

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Can You Hear the Whistle Blowing?: SEC Punishes Company that Did Not Address Fraud Allegations by Whistleblower

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently announced the latest whistleblower bounty awarded under the Dodd-Frank Act, which authorizes rewards for original information about violations of securities laws.  Whistleblowers can receive 10 percent to 30 percent of the money collected in an SEC enforcement action where the monetary sanctions imposed exceed $1 million.

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SEC Charges Hedge Fund Adviser with Whistleblower Retaliation under Dodd-Frank

On June 16, 2014, the SEC issued its first-ever charge of whistleblower retaliation under section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Act, charging a hedge fund advisor and its owner with “engaging in prohibited principal transactions and then retaliating against the employee who reported the trading activity to the SEC.” Read More

U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission Issues First Whistleblower Award

On Monday, May 19, 2014, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) issued its first award to a whistleblower under its Dodd-Frank bounty program.

The Commission will pay $240,000 to an unidentified whistleblower who “voluntarily provided original information that caused the Commission to launch an investigation that led to an enforcement action” in which the judgment and sanctions exceeded $1 million. The heavily redacted award determination on the CFTC’s website does not reveal the name of the implicated company, the nature of the wrongdoing involved, the percentage of bounty the whistleblower received (which is required to be between 10 and 30 percent pursuant to the statute), or the factors considered in determining the percentage of the bounty.

Prior to this first grant of an award to a whistleblower under the CFTC’s Dodd-Frank bounty program, there were 25 denials of award claims. The reasons for the denials primarily fell into one or more of several categories:

  1. the individuals provided information before the passage of Dodd-Frank;
  2. they did not file a form TCR as required by the regulations;
  3. they did not provide information “voluntarily” but rather in response to a Commission request; and/or
  4. the information did not cause the Commission to open or expand an investigation or significantly contribute to a success of a Commission matter.

Time will tell whether this first award will have any effect on the number of whistleblowers who report to the CFTC or the quality of information the Commission receives.

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

Where the Whistle Blows: SEC Invites Circuit Split Over Reach of Dodd-Frank Anti-Retaliation Provision

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently weighed in on a whistleblower case pending in the Second Circuit, urging the court in Liu v. Siemens, A.G. to adopt the SEC’s interpretation of the Dodd-Frank Act’s anti-retaliation provision.  If the Second Circuit agrees, its ruling would create a circuit split over whether Dodd-Frank protects from retaliation internal whistleblowers who do not make a report to the SEC, likely teeing up the issue for resolution by the Supreme Court.   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