Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Antitrust Whistleblower Bill For those who sound the alarm on antitrust violations, legislation offers key protections against loss of job, demotion, and other retaliations.
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Congress -- like an increasing number of state legislatures -- has seen first hand how whistleblowers can help battle fraud and other wrongdoing. The gold standard of whistleblower laws -- the federal False Claims Act -- has spurred the recovery of more than $34 billion since it was substantially modified in the mid 1980s. Since that time, other whistleblower statutes and programs have been implemented -- with growing success -- on both the federal and state levels. Now the U.S. Senate has taken an important step towards enacting another key piece of legislation.
On October 31, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill -- S. 42, or the "Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act of 2013'' -- that would protect whistleblowers who report or testify about antitrust violations from retaliation by employers or others. The prohibited acts would include termination, demotion, suspension, and harassment in response to the whistleblower's speaking out. Should these actions occur, the whistleblower would have recourse that includes a cause of action in civil court, where compensatory damages -- including back pay and reinstatement -- would be possible. It was unanimously passed by the full Senate only days later, on November 5, 2013.
"By now, the great service that whistleblowers provide by speaking out on fraud and other improper activity is undisputed," says Jeffrey F. Keller, a founding partner at Keller Grover, a nationally recognized labor and employment law firm, and a veteran whistleblower lawyer. "The Senate gets this. That's why we saw unanimous approval in the Senate so quickly, and that's why we have seen a broad array of new statutes and regulatory schemes that encourage and support whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are a bi-partisan issue. We're hopeful for similar treatment when this bill goes to the House."
The anti-retaliation bill was introduced in January, co-sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont). It will now move to the House for consideration, though a date for that has not yet been set.
In his remarks on the bill, Senator Grassley noted, "too often whistleblowers who risk their careers to expose waste, fraud, and abuse are treated like second-class citizens." The bill would change that.
"The most effective whistleblower laws -- like the False Claims Act -- already have anti-retaliation provisions, but the antitrust legislation extends protections into the antitrust arena where whistleblowers play an important role in exposing wrongdoing," says Keller, whose firm has offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. "When you think about it, this isn't just the fair thing to do, but the right thing. By speaking out about wrongdoing that often impacts us, whistleblowers have our back. We should have their back, too."
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SOURCE Keller Grover LLP