The SEC has agreed to pay $755,000 to settle a wrongful discharge claim brought by former employee Gary J. Aguirre. Aguirre, an attorney at the SEC, headed an investigation of Pequot Capital Management for insider trading. After urging management at the SEC to issue a subpoena for Wall Street banker John Mack, Aguirre was discharged. The $755,000 is for four years and ten months of back pay plus attorney’s fees. Coincidentally, last month the SEC filed charges against Pequot.
On June 28, 2010, the Supreme Court issued an opinion upholding the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. The Court ruled that in order to maintain a constitutional separation of powers, Securities and Exchange Commission must be allowed remove members of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board at will. A copy of the opinion is available here.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who reports suspected violations of federal mail, wire, bank, or securities fraud; federal law relating to fraud against shareholders; or any rule or regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The employment lawyers at The Employment Law Group® law firm have substantial experience representing employees in Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower proceedings before the Department of Labor and have written numerous articles about the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. For more information about TELG’s Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Practice, click here.
On May 26, 2010, the Department of Labor ordered UPS to pay one of its drivers $111,008 in back wages, benefits, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees for violations of the whistleblower provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA). According to OSHA, UPS terminated the driver for refusing to drive a truck and trailer with inoperable lights. The amount awarded includes $100,000 in punitive damages.
The STAA protects bus drivers, truckers, other employees who blow the whistle about the unsafe operation of commercial motor vehicles. To learn more about The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Commercial Motor Carrier Whistleblower Practice, click here.
On June 18, 2010, the Washington Business Journal wrote an article discussing the False Claims Act retaliation lawsuit filed by Robert Fagg against his former employer SmithGroup. The article is titled “Fired SmithGroup engineer files whistle-blower suit.” Robert, a former vice president in charge of quality-control reviews, raised numerous concerns about serious defects in mechanical designs for the renovation of the Navy hospital at Camp Lejeune, NC. Just days after meeting with SmithGroup President, Carl Roehling, Robert was laid off with his managing director citing a “complete and mutual lack of trust.” Robert filed suit for unlawful retaliation in violation of the False Claims Act and breach of contract.
Robert Fagg is represented by employment attorney R. Scott Oswald, Principal at The Employment Law Group® law firm. For more information about the firm’s Whistleblower Retaliation Practice, click here.
On April 2, 2010, a False Claims Act qui tam action against Oracle Corp. and Oracle USA, Inc. was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Oracle entered into Multiple Award Schedule agreements with the GSA. Under these agreements, the federal government is supposed to receive discounts “equal to or greater than the discount given to the firm’s most favored customer.” According to the complaint filed by former Oracle employee Paul Frascella, Oracle routinely offered commercial customers deeper discounts and overcharged the government. The complaint was filed under seal in May of 2007.
The False Claims Act permits an individual to file a qui tam action on behalf of the federal government and provides for an award of up to 30% of the government’s recovery. The False Claims Act also prohibits an employer from retaliating against an individual who: 1) investigates an FCA action; 2) initiates an FCA action; 3) testifies for an FCA action; or 4) assists in an FCA action.