On May 22, 2017, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC” or the “Commission”) adopted several additions to its whistleblower rules. Among other things, the amendments expand the Commission’s power to pursue anti-retaliation claims on behalf of whistleblowers and, like the SEC, now prohibit confidentiality agreements that “impede” a whistleblower’s communications with the CFTC. The CFTC first proposed some form of these amendments to its Whistleblower Rules last year.
Noa M. Baddish is a senior counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department. She is a member of the Sports, Employment Litigation & Arbitration, Class and Collective Action, Wage & Hour and Whistleblower & Retaliation Practice Groups.
Noa’s practice concentrates on all aspects of labor and employment law. Her employment litigation practice in state and federal courts includes class and collective actions and defending claims of discrimination, harassment, breach of contract and violations of wage and hour laws. Noa represents Major League Baseball and its clubs in an ongoing litigation brought by current and former minor league players who allege minimum wage and overtime violations. In addition, Noa has represented clients in the media and entertainment and fashion industries in lawsuits brought by unpaid interns in wage and hour disputes.
Noa also provides significant assistance on counseling matters on a wide array of issues for clients in various industries, including, but not limited to, sports, law firms, financial institutions, media and fashion.
Noa has been recognized as a Rising Star by New York Super Lawyers since 2015. She has authored and contributed to several articles and newsletters on employment and labor topics, including “State Whistleblowing Laws Provide Whopping Verdicts,” New York Law Journal (January 2014). Noa is also a frequent contributor to the Firm’s Whistleblower Defense blog.
Previously served as Assistant General Counsel to the New York City Mayor's Office of Labor Relations, Noa defended the Mayor and City agencies against both employee grievances at arbitration and improper practice petitions before the Board of Collective Bargaining. Prior to that, she was a Law Clerk to Judge Ellen L. Koblitz of the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court.
While in law school, Noa served on the Executive Board as notes and articles editor of the Fordham Urban Law Journal.
On April 4, 2016, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued its third and largest award, of more than $10 million, as part of its Dodd-Frank whistleblower program. As was the case with the CFTC’s two previous awards of $240,000 and $290,000—announced in May 2014 and September 2015, respectively—the Agency did not provide details about the whistleblower or the information that led to the enforcement action.
On April 7, 2016, after just three hours of deliberations following a three-week trial, a federal jury dismissed False Claims Act (“FCA”) claims against Abbott Laboratories brought by a whistleblowing former employee. The jury concluded that the company did not improperly market bile duct stents for off-label uses in vascular procedures.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued proposed enforcement guidance regarding retaliation claims. According to the EEOC, the revised guidance is necessary in light of several court decisions, including the Supreme Court’s decision in Univ. of Tex. SW Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 133 S. Ct. 2517 (2013), holding that retaliation claims under Title VII are subject to a “but-for” (as opposed to a “contributing factor”) causation standard. The EEOC also notes in its 76 page proposal that new guidelines are necessary because the percentage of retaliation charges has nearly doubled since 1998, when the agency last issued guidance regarding retaliation claims.
In a recent interview with Law360 (subscription required), Chris Ehrman, the Director of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Whistleblower Office, predicted that the number and size of the CFTC’s whistleblower awards will increase in the near future. Ehrman also said that the agency will conduct “straight marketing” to ensure that potential whistleblowers are aware of the agency’s whistleblower bounty program.
On March 2, 2015, the SEC announced an expected award of $475,000 to $575,000 to a former company officer “who reported original, high-quality information about a securities fraud that resulted in an SEC enforcement action with sanctions exceeding $1 million.” The officer reported information to the SEC more than 120 days after other responsible compliance personnel at the company in possession of the information purportedly failed to adequately address the issue. This is the first of its kind under the SEC’s whistleblower program, and the first award announced this year.
Since the enactment of Dodd-Frank in 2010, the number of whistleblower complaints filed under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (“CFPA”) has risen significantly while the number of SOX complaints filed with OSHA has largely declined. According to data provided by OSHA, the total number of whistleblower complaints has generally increased over the past ten years. This overall trend is not surprising in light of the greater publicity around whistleblowers in the wake of the passage of Dodd-Frank, employee-favorable rulings by the DOL, and pro-employee rulings by many courts.
On December 11, 2014, the SEC filed an amicus brief in support of Plaintiff-Appellant Mikael Safarian asking the Third Circuit to revive his Dodd-Frank whistleblower claim and endorse the agency’s definition of “whistleblower” as including individuals who only report internally. If the Third Circuit addresses this issue—and it might not since it was not a basis for the district court’s ruling—and adopts the SEC’s position, that would create a circuit split, which could ultimately result in the U.S. Supreme Court issuing a final determination.
On November 17, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of the Whistleblower (“OWB”) released its fourth Annual Report on the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program to Congress, which details information on OWB’s activities and bounty payouts for the fiscal year, as described in our posts on the 2012 and 2013 Annual Reports.
In its 2014 report, the SEC highlights that since the inception of the whistleblower program in 2011, the Commission has granted awards to a total of fourteen whistleblowers, and nine of these awards were issued in 2014. The SEC also stressed that the magnitude of the award payments was “record-breaking” in 2014 in that it authorized an award of more than $30 million in September 2014. In addition, the SEC pointed out that it brought its first enforcement action against an employer for retaliating against a whistleblower under Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation provision.