High Court's Decision Next Term May Increase Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Litigation

This November, in Lawson v. FMR LLC, the United States Supreme Court will hear argument on whether “whistleblowers” employed by a privately held contractor or subcontractor of a publicly traded company are protected from retaliation by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX). The Court granted certiorari in Lawson on May 20, 2013, to review the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in a case involving two self-proclaimed whistleblowers employed by private contractors performing services for publicly traded mutual funds.

The plaintiffs in Lawson claimed that they had been retaliated against for raising concerns about potential violations of the securities laws in connection with the operation of the publicly traded funds. To ground their claims, the plaintiffs invoked the protection of 18 U.S.C. §1514A(a), a SOX provision stating that no publicly traded company “or any officer, employee, contractor, subcontractor, or agent of such company or nationally recognized statistical rating organization, may discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or in any other manner discriminate against an employee in the terms and conditions of employment” because of certain lawful whistleblowing activities.

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