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SEC targeting companies for whistleblower violations

Companies coast to coast are finding out that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is more than willing to go to bat for corporate whistleblowers who are retaliated against for exposing business fraud.

A recent case involving a gas exploration company is underscoring regulators' resolve to bring action against employers deemed to have violated federal securities laws protecting whistleblowers.

In the matter involving SandRidge Energy Inc., the SEC recently filed a $1.2 million claim against the company for allegedly forcing select past and current employees to sign employment contracts that barred them from contacting the SEC regarding unlawful corporate conduct.

In one case, a SandRidge employee contacted the commission to report inaccurate data being disseminated by the company concerning its gas and oil reserves. SandRidge fired that worker.

The SandRidge tale is but one of several high-profile cases that have recently surfaced regarding an SEC response to unlawful company actions taken in the wake of protected whistleblower activities.

In one matter, the commission fined a health company for illegally requiring workers to execute severance agreements pursuant to which they were forced to surrender their right to receive any monetary payment from regulators for disclosing corporate wrongdoing.

"Financial incentives … are integral to promoting whistle-blowing to the commission," stated a federal official.

A similar outcome ensued in another case, with a construction industry entity being fined for foisting severance agreements on departing workers that barred whistleblowing activities.

Individuals who fear reprisals for reporting unlawful business activities, or who have been retaliated against by company officials, can obtain guidance and strong legal representation from an attorney with a demonstrated history of protecting whistleblowers and fully promoting their legal rights and interests.

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