Last month, Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced a law to Congress called the Whistleblower Augmented Reward and Non-Retaliation Act of 2016 (WARN Act). The new legislation is designed to cover holes in the existing laws that protect whistleblowers.
What’s the Dodd-Frank Act?
The nation’s current whistleblower protections were introduced with the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act), which President Obama signed into law in July 2010. Created to help curb the Wall Street excesses that resulted in the 2008 financial crisis, the Dodd-Frank Act ensures protections for people who “blow the whistle” on illegal or unethical actions by financial firms.
Some provisions of current whistleblowing laws within Dodd-Frank include:
- Reward programs for legitimate whistleblowing
- Job protection and confidentiality for whistleblowers
How the WARN Act Plugs Holes in the Dodd-Frank Act
After Dodd-Frank, whistleblowing became safer – but unforeseen loopholes in the law enabled financial firms to avoid punishment. For example, a bank or investment firm can skirt much of the Dodd-Frank Act’s penalties by simply requiring new employees to waive their whistleblower’s rights as a condition of being hired by the firm.
Among other enhancements, the newly-proposed WARN Act would:
- Prohibit employers from forcing potential employees to waive their whistleblowing rights in order to be hired
- Allow for civil lawsuits and punitive damages against employers who retaliate against whistleblowers
Holding Wall Street Accountable
Wall Street’s crash in 2008 didn’t just impact the wealthy and corporations – it also hurt “the little guy” with mortgage foreclosures and job losses. Over one million people lost their homes in the first year of the crisis alone. The “Great Recession” helped raise the public’s awareness of financial wrongdoing and its consequences to society at large.
As a result, people are more watchful at work now. It’s in their own best interests to keep Wall Street from breaking the law or operating with questionable ethics. The SEC paid out $37 million in rewards across 150 whistleblower claims in 2015, according to its annual report to Congress.
More Information About Whistleblowing
If you want to find out more about the WARN Act and other laws protecting the rights of whistleblowers, you can read more information on the following US government websites:
- SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower
- US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Whistleblower Program
If you think you may have reason to become a whistleblower and want to learn more about your individual rights and protections, contact our team of whistleblower lawyers.