“Whistleblowers” have always enjoyed some protections against prosecution, in order to encourage those with knowledge of wrong-doing to come forward and expose the wrong-doers. The enactment by Congress in 2002 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) in response to revelations of corporate corruption and calamitous bankruptcies established new civil and criminal protections for whistleblowers. Publicly-traded companies are now prohibited from retaliating against employees who report corporate fraud. SOX also prohibits any individual from knowingly taking harmful action against any person for providing truthful information to a law enforcement officer relating to the commission or possible commission of a federal offense.
Since well before SOX, but increasingly following the highly public corporate collapses of Enron, WorldCom and others, Venable lawyers have advised employers on ensuring compliance with various whistleblower protections.
Venable’s experience includes:
- Defending employers against whistleblower actions, including claims brought under Sarbanes-Oxley, in administrative proceedings before the Department of Labor or court;
- Advising employers on the whistleblower protections of Sarbanes-Oxley and the claims procedures established by Sarbanes-Oxley;
- Counseling employers regarding compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley’s whistleblower protections; and
- Conducting internal investigations of whistleblower retaliation claims.
Representative cases include:
- Ambrose v. U.S. Foodservice, Inc. and Royal Ahold, N.V. Represented Royal Ahold, N.V. in a Sarbanes-Oxley complaint filed with the Department of Labor by a former employee of U.S. Foodservice who claimed that he was terminated in retaliation for reporting that a former executive had engaged in insider trading. Venable attorneys successfully moved on behalf of Royal Ahold for summary decision on the ground that the former employee was not entitled to the whistleblower protections of Sarbanes-Oxley simply by virtue of the fact that U.S Foodservice was a subsidiary of a publicly-traded company.
- Represented a national food and beverage provider in a Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower complaint filed with the Department of Labor by one of the companies’ management officials who alleged that she was terminated in retaliation for her participating in an internal investigation and audit. Venable attorneys successfully convinced the Department of Labor to dismiss the complaint in its entirety.
- Represented an international professional services firm in a threatened Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower claim by one of the company’s in-house counsel.
- Advised a biotechnology company on the applicability of the whistleblower provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley to an employee’s provision of information in response to compliance audit by a government agency.