Justice Department Shifts on White Collar Crime—Ends Too Big to Jail

On September 15, 2015, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates issued an inter-Agency memorandum, effectively ending the U.S. Justice Department’s Holder Doctrine, also known as the “Too Big to Jail” policy.”

The Holder Doctrine, as it was known within the Justice Department, refers to a June 1999 memorandum written by then-Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.  According to Holder, large financial institutions were “too big to jail” because the potential for “collateral consequences” from prosecutions — including corporate instability or collapse — had to be considered when deciding to bringing individual charges. (more…)

Fourth Circuit Interprets ADAAA Broadly in Overturning Summary Judgment

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in a recent case on appeal from the Eastern District of North Carolina, interpreted the 2008 Amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADAAA) broadly and reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The opinion contains a number of holdings favorable to ADA plaintiffs, including: 1) that the EEOC’s interpretation of what constitutes a “major life activity” under the ADA deserves Chevron deference from the courts; 2) that reasonable accommodations may include the restructuring of a plaintiff’s job, including the trading of some duties; and 3) that an employer’s retrospective addition of reasons for termination may bolster evidence of pretext on a retaliation claim.

In Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, a former deputy clerk at the courthouse in New Hanover County, North Carolina asked that her employer accommodate her social anxiety disorder by reassigning her from providing customer service at the front counter of the courthouse to a job which would require less personal interaction. The employer waited three weeks before acting on the request and then terminated the deputy clerk.

Two Senators Launch Bipartisan Whistleblower Protection Caucus

In February 2015, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) announced the Whistleblower Protection Caucus, signaling that whistleblower protection is a topic on which politicians on both sides of the aisle can agree. Grassley, a long-time advocate for whistleblower rights, initially announced plans to form the Caucus in April 2014.

The purpose of the Caucus is to bring together like-minded Senators who can shed light on the need for ongoing whistleblower protections. The Caucus will focus on enforcement of whistleblower protections and creating a culture that understands and respects the right to blow the whistle on wrongdoing.

South Carolina Holds FCA’s First-to-File Rule Overcome by Previous Voluntary Dismissal

The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina held that the False Claims Act’s (FCA) first-to-file rule requires that another complaint must be pending. Thus, the voluntary dismissal of an earlier-filed complaint clears the way for subsequent complaints, and no comparison of content of the complaints is necessary to allow the later-filed case to proceed.

The FCA’s first-to-file bar provides that when a private person brings an FCA action, “no person other than the Government may intervene or bring a related action based on the facts underlying the pending action.”

Panel Finds Whistleblower Retaliation Against WMATA Employee Who Reported Technology Project

Public records obtained by a nonprofit website- Government Attic, reveal that the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Whistleblower Retaliation Hearing Panel found that a former employee who blew the whistle on a troubled technology project was the victim of retaliation. This case is the first case since the panel was formed in 2010 in which the agency agrees that WMATA violated laws prohibiting whistleblower retaliation.

The panel believes that the former employee’s February 2010 termination was in part due to his cooperation with the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit of a $6.9 million information technology project aimed at fixing problems with People Soft software, which is used by Metro.

Although the panel did not reinstate the employee, it ruled that the former employee is a “capable person” and should be given “preferred consideration” for future openings for which he qualifies.

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.


Whistleblower Files Lawsuit against New York Organ Donor Network for Harvesting Organs from Living Patients

Patrick McMahon, a former transplant coordinator for the New York Organ Donor Network, filed a whistleblower lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Manhattan on September 25, 2012 against the federally-funded nonprofit group for allegedly using a “quota” system to pressure doctors and patients’ next of kin to sign consent forms allowing the organization to harvest organs.

According to McMahon’s lawsuit, he witnessed the organ donor network bully hospital staffers and pressured them to prematurely declare patients brain dead in order to harvest their organs. He cites one case from September 2011 in which a nineteen-year-old car crash victim was declared dead, even though according to McMahon he was “still trying to breathe and showed signs of brain activity.” McMahon openly protested the organization’s policies and was terminated four months into his role as a transplant coordinator. In fact, McMahon states that as a result of objecting this practice, another employee called him “an untrained troublemaker with a history of raising frivolous issues and questions.”