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Steven J. Pearlman

Partner

Steven J. Pearlman is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the firm's Whistleblowing & Retaliation Group. Steven’s practice focuses on defending complex employment litigation involving claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation; wage-and-hour laws; breach of employment contract; and restrictive covenants (e.g., non-competition agreements). Steven is also at the forefront of defending whistleblower retaliation claims, and routinely conducts investigations arising from whistleblower reports. He has successfully tried cases to verdict in Illinois, Florida and California, and defended what is reported to be the largest Illinois-only class action in the history of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He has also testified in defense of his investigations in federal court.

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M.D. Pennsylvania Grants Summary Judgment on SOX Retaliation Claim

On April 12, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted a defendant-employer’s motion for summary judgment on a SOX whistleblower retaliation claim, holding that the company demonstrated that it would have terminated Plaintiff’s employment even in the absence of any alleged protected activity as part of a broad reduction-in-force (RIF).  … Continue Reading

SEC Awards $22 Million to Two Whistleblowers

On May 10, 2021, the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower announced multi-million dollar awards to two whistleblowers who provided the SEC with information that assisted the agency in bringing a successful enforcement action against a financial services firm.  (The order granting the awards can be accessed here.)  The larger of the two awards, $18 million, was … Continue Reading

Pennsylvania District Court Grants Employer Summary Judgment on SOX Claim

On March 29, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted a defendant-employer’s motion for summary judgment on a SOX whistleblower retaliation claim, holding that the plaintiff lacked an objectively or subjectively reasonable belief that the company violated any law enumerated in Section 806 of SOX.  Ngai v. Urban Outfitters, Inc., … Continue Reading

6th Circuit: FCA Whistleblower Protections Extend to Post-Employment Retaliation

On March 31, 2021, the Sixth Circuit addressed an issue of first impression in the circuit, holding that the False Claims Act’s (“FCA”) whistleblower protection provisions protect former employees from post-employment retaliation.  United States, ex rel. Felten v. William Beaumont Hospital, No. 20-1002. Background Plaintiff was employed as a doctor at a Michigan hospital.  He … Continue Reading

7th Circuit Affirms Denial of Equitable Tolling of Statute of Limitations Under SOX

On March 22, 2021, the Seventh Circuit affirmed a decision by the ARB dismissing a whistleblower retaliation complaint under SOX for failure to file within the 180-day statutory deadline.  Xanthopoulos v. U.S. Department of Labor, No. 20-2604.  The court rejected the plaintiff’s equitable tolling arguments. Background Plaintiff was an employee of an investment company, and … Continue Reading

ARB Affirms Dismissal of SOX Whistleblower Claim for Lack of Protected Activity

On December 17, 2020, the Administrative Review Board (“ARB”) of the U.S. Department of Labor affirmed the dismissal of a former employee’s whistleblower retaliation claim under Section 806 of SOX.  The ARB concluded that the Complainant did not engage in protected activity, noting that his complaints regarding a lack of what he characterized as “internal … Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of SOX Whistleblower Claim for Lack of Employer-Employee Relationship

On January 29, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a SOX whistleblower retaliation claim where the plaintiff failed to establish an employer-employee relationship with the defendant.  Moody v. Am. Nat’l Ins. Co., No. 20-cv-40462. Background Plaintiff was the owner and president of Moody Insurance Group (“MIG”).  MIG … Continue Reading

CFTC Releases 2020 Annual Report on its Whistleblower Program

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) recently released its 2020 Annual Report on the status of its whistleblower program for the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2020. The report, prepared by the CFTC’s Whistleblower Office (“WBO”), contains statistics on the tips received and awards granted during the previous fiscal year, describes the WBO’s recent … Continue Reading

Ga. District Court Dismisses Dodd-Frank and SOX Whistleblower Claims

On September 30, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia granted an employer’s motion to dismiss a Dodd-Frank whistleblower claim on the ground that the alleged whistleblower did not complain to the SEC prior to his termination.  The court also granted Plaintiff’s SOX whistleblower claim as against three affiliates of Plaintiff’s … Continue Reading

SEC Amends Whistleblower Program Rules

On September 23, 2020, by a vote of 3 to 2, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced the adoption of a final rule implementing several changes to its whistleblower program, citing the need to “provide greater clarity to whistleblowers and increase the program’s efficiency and transparency.”  The following addresses the key provisions of the … Continue Reading

Third Circuit Confirms Limits on Scope of Protected Activity Under SOX

On July 16, 2020, the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a former IT analyst’s whistleblower retaliation claim, holding that he lacked an objectively reasonable belief that his complaints implicated one of the enumerated forms of fraud in the SOX whistleblower provision.  Reilly v. GlaxoSmithKline, LLC, No. 19-cv-2897. Background Plaintiff was an IT analyst for … Continue Reading

COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Bill Introduced Into Congress

On June 15, 2020, Senator Kamala Harris and Representatives Jackie Speier and Jamie Raskin introduced the COVID-19 Whistleblower Protection Act (the “Act”), which seeks to provide protections for employees who blow the whistle on employers who misuse federal funds received through various measures enacted by Congress aimed at mitigating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. … Continue Reading

Pennsylvania Magistrate Judge Recommends Dismissal of SOX Whistleblower Claim for Lack of Protected Activity

On May 5, 2020, a Magistrate Judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania issued a report and recommendation recommending that a defendant-employer’s motion for summary judgment dismissing a SOX whistleblower retaliation claim be granted, finding that the plaintiff had not engaged in protected activity.  Wutherich v. Rice Energy Inc, No. … Continue Reading

Whistleblower Claims on the Horizon Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

In recent weeks, there have been numerous widely reported incidents of employees, particularly those in the health care industry, claiming that they have been retaliated against for reporting health and safety concerns related to COVID-19.  Such complaints are indicative of the kinds of whistleblower and retaliation claims employers are likely to see in the near … Continue Reading

SDNY: Directors Not Liable For Whistleblower Claims Under SOX

On December 9, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that, as a matter of law, directors cannot be held liable under the anti-retaliation provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  Zornoza v. Terraform Global Inc., No. 18-cv-11617. Background Plaintiff is the former President and CEO of the defendant companies which … Continue Reading

ARB: “Hinting” at Filing a Whistleblower Complaint is Not Protected Activity

On October 31, 2019, the ARB held that an employee who merely “hints” that he or she intends to file a whistleblower complaint has not engaged in protected activity sufficient to invoke the whistleblower protection provision in SOX.  Hoptman v. Health Net of California, ARB Case No. 2017-0052, (Oct. 31, 2019). Background Complainant was a … Continue Reading

SEC Releases FY 2019 Whistleblower Program Annual Report

On November 15, 2019, the SEC published its annual report to Congress covering the agency’s whistleblower program. The report, which covers the period of October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019, was prepared by the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower (“OWB”) to summarize its whistleblower bounty program, report on recent statistical trends, and revisit key … Continue Reading

SEC Files Suit Against Company For Allegedly Impeding Investors From Blowing the Whistle

On November 4, 2019, the SEC announced that it had filed an amended complaint against online auction portal Collectors Café and CEO Mykalai Kontilai, alleging Kontilai tried to prevent investors from communicating with the SEC in violation of Rule 21F-17.  The SEC previously charged Collectors Café and Kontilai with fraudulently raising $23 million by making … Continue Reading

SDNY Grants Motion to Dismiss SOX Retaliation Claim

On September 18, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted a defendant-employer’s motion to dismiss a SOX whistleblower retaliation claim, finding that the plaintiff failed to adequately plead protected activity.  Tonra v. Kadmon Holdings, Inc., No. 18-cv-9028. Background The defendant-employer is a publicly traded biopharmaceutical company that develops and … Continue Reading

Ill. Federal Court Grants Summary Judgment on Whistleblower Retaliation Claims

On September 27, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted a defendant-employer summary judgment on a whistleblower retaliation claim under the Illinois Whistleblower Act (“IWA”) and on a common law retaliatory discharge claim, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish that he suffered an adverse employment action under the IWA and … Continue Reading

District of Rhode Island Dismisses In-House Attorney’s SOX Whistleblower Claim for Lack of Protected Activity

On July 19, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island granted an employer’s motion to dismiss a SOX whistleblower claim, holding that the Plaintiff—an in-house attorney—failed to allege sufficient facts to show he had an objectively reasonable belief that fraud had occurred.  Colesanti v. Dickinson, No. 18-491. Background Plaintiff was an … Continue Reading

ARB Affirms Dismissal of SOX Whistleblower Claim Against Non-Public Companies

The ARB recently affirmed the dismissal of a whistleblower retaliation claim under Section 806 of SOX, holding an employer is not a “contractor” covered by SOX simply because it was a party to a contract with a publicly traded company.  Griffo v. Book Dog Books, LLC, Robert William Holdings, LLC & Robert William Mgmt., LLC, … Continue Reading

4th Circuit Vacates ARB SOX Whistleblower Decision for Lack of Protected Activity

On June 13, 2019, the Fourth Circuit overturned the ARB’s decision in favor of a complainant, ruling that the plaintiff had not engaged in protected activity under the SOX whistleblower protection provision by complaining of a company’s use of a mandatory arbitration policy that allegedly was overly broad.  Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. v. U.S. Dep’t … Continue Reading
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