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Court Rules That Whistleblower Must Face Trial On Former Employer's Claims

Life is not necessarily all skittles and beer for whistleblowers.  Sometimes, they are sued by the very companies on which they blew the whistle.  Such is the case in the ongoing case of Erhart v. Bofi Holding, Inc., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57137.  Judge Cynthia Bashant limns the background facts as follows:

"Charles Erhart was an internal auditor for BofI Federal Bank. After Erhart discovered conduct he believed to be wrongful, he reported it to BofI's principal regulator. BofI responded by allegedly defaming and terminating him. Erhart then filed this lawsuit for whistleblower retaliation under state and federal law. The next morning, The New York Times published an article summarizing the lawsuit's allegations—causing BofI's stock price to plummet. The Bank quickly commenced a countersuit against Erhart claiming he committed fraud, breached his duty of loyalty, and violated state and federal anti-hacking statutes. The Court consolidated BofI's countersuit with Erhart's whistleblower-retaliation action."

In the cited decision, Judge Bashant grants in parts and denies in part Erhart's and Bofi's motions for summary adjudication.  The ruling is lengthy and tackles a variety of issues, some of which I hope to address in future posts.  Nonetheless, a key point for whistleblowers is that Judge Bashant is allowing Bofi's claims against Erhart to proceed to trial, albeit on a limited basis.  

When "Whistleblower" First Became Figurative

Recently, I endeavored to identify the first figurative use of the term "whistleblower" in a reported California opinion.  I was surprised that earliest case dates to the presidency of Ronald Reagan.  Interestingly, the Court addresses the very tension at the heart of Erhart:

"There is a great public interest in the truthful revelation of wrongdoing, and in protecting the 'whistleblower' from retaliation; there is very little public interest in protecting the source of false accusations of wrongdoing."

Mitchell v. Superior Court, 37 Cal. 3d 268, 283, 690 P.2d 625, 634, 208 Cal. Rptr. 152, 161 (1984).  Many cases dating back to the mid 19th Century mention the blowing of whistles, but the references are to actual, not figurative, whistles.

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About this Author

Keith Paul Bishop, Corporate Transactions Lawyer, finance securities attorney, Allen Matkins Law Firm
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Keith Paul Bishop is a partner in Allen Matkins' Corporate and Securities practice group, and works out of the Orange County office. He represents clients in a wide range of corporate transactions, including public and private securities offerings of debt and equity, mergers and acquisitions, proxy contests and tender offers, corporate governance matters and federal and state securities laws (including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and the Dodd-Frank Act), investment adviser, financial services regulation, and California administrative law. He regularly advises clients...

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