Employment Law | Whistle-Blower Protections Reduced
By Meagan Bainbridge, Weintraub, Tobin, Chediak, Coleman, Grodin Law Corporation
On February 21, 2018, in Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers, the United States Supreme Court significantly reduced the protections of corporate whistleblowers reporting violations of securities laws under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. When it was enacted in 2010, Dodd-Frank included an anti-retaliation provision protecting whistleblowers from facing an adverse action (e.g., termination) as a result of their complaints. That provision defined a “whistleblower” as “any individual who provides . . . information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the Commission, in a manner established, by rule or regulation, by the Commission.” (15 U. S. C. §78u–6(a)(6).) While other Courts and the SEC have interpreted the language to extend to complaints made internally, the Supreme Court’s decision clarified that statute only “shields employees . . . as soon as they also provide relevant information to the Commission.” Going forward, while there may be protections under other federal or state law protecting corporate whistleblowers making complaints under the Dodd-Frank Act, complaints must be made to the SEC to receive protection under the Act.