Senate Passes an Antitrust “Whistleblower” Protection Bill

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On November 4, 2013, the United States Senate passed S. 42, the “Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act,” by unanimous consent. The legislation, introduced back in January of 2013 with bipartisan support (Senators Leahy (D) and Grassley (R)), provides protections to employees that provide information to the federal government about possible antitrust violations by their employer. Specifically, no employer may “discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass or in any other manner discriminate” against an employee that, in good faith, reports a potential antitrust violation to the federal government.

An employee whose rights under the Act has been violated may either file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor or commence his or her own private lawsuit in federal district court seeking relief for the alleged violation of the Act. Prevailing plaintiffs under the Act can obtain all of the following forms of relief: (1) reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee would have had, absent the discrimination; (2) back pay, with interest; and (3) compensation for any special damages incurred, including attorney’s fees, expert witness fees and litigation costs.

The bill was received in the House on November 12, 2013, and, at present, is being “held at the desk” (i.e., is awaiting either referral to a House Committee for further action or being place on the House calendar for a vote). Given the apparent bipartisan support for the legislation, it would not be surprising if, rather than being sent to a House committee for further consideration, it is instead presented directly to the full House for vote (or unanimous consent) once Congress returns from its Christmas recess in January. If enacted, the legislation would be codified as Section 216 of the Antitrust Criminal Penalty Enhancement and Reform Act of 2004 (Public Law 108-237).