SEC Issues Interpretation of its Regulations on Definition of Dodd-Frank Whistleblower
On August 4, 2015, the SEC issued an “Interpretation of the SEC’s Whistleblower Rules Under Section 21F of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.” (pdf). Unsurprisingly, and consistent with the position that it has been taking in amicus briefs on the issue, the SEC states that a whistleblower need not report suspected wrongdoing to the Commission in order to be protected by the anti-retaliation provisions of Dodd-Frank. Rather, internal whistleblowing that is protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act is protected activity sufficient to state a claim under Dodd-Frank, according to the SEC. We recently posted a video discussion of this very topic (here), noting that there is currently a sharp split of judicial authority on this critical question, and that the issue may well be headed to the Supreme Court for resolution.
The Fifth Circuit held in Asadi v. G.E. Energy (USA), LLC, 720 F.3d 620 (5th Cir. 2013), that a Dodd-Frank whistleblower must report wrongdoing to the Commission to be protected by that statute; a decision from the Second Circuit on the issue is pending in Berman v. Neo@Ogilvy LLC, 14-4626 (2d Cir.). Ultimately, of course, it is the job of the courts to determine what Congress intended in the Dodd-Frank Act, but if the issue does indeed reach the Supreme Court – and in every federal district and appellate court case until that time – those favoring a broad interpretation of the definition of a “whistleblower” under the Dodd-Frank anti-retaliation provision will surely be citing the SEC’s new interpretation of its regulations.