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Sarbanes-Oxley Act – Protection for Corporate Whistleblowers

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The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) provides protection for corporate whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. One area of the law that courts have focused on in recent years is the type of complaint that Sarbanes-Oxley covers.

A recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Wiest v. Tyco Electric Corp increases protection for corporate whistleblowering employees under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

The Third Circuit (which includes Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey) is the first federal Court of Appeals to approve the employee-friendly standard that the Administrative Review Board (ARB) of the Department of Labor announced in Sylvester v. Parexel LLC.

In Sylvester, the ARB ruled that a whistleblower could claim retaliation under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act based on a complaint that does not claim a specific violation of one of the fraud or securities laws.   Examples of violations of fraud or securities laws are:  mail fraud;  wire, radio, or TV fraud; securities fraud; violation of any rule or regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission; or any provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.

This Third Circuit ruling makes it easier for corporate whistleblowers to bring retaliation claims.  As long as an employee reasonably believes that his or her employer has engaged in fraud or securities law violations, then the employee is protected against retaliation as a corporate whistleblower —  regardless of whether the employer actually broke the law.

There are many important issues to consider in any corporate whistleblower case. Feinstein Doyle Payne & Kravec, LLC partner Joel Hurt can assist you in evaluating a potential whistleblower claim to be brought under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.


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