By David W. Garland and Allen B. Roberts

Major provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) will gain substance and vitality only with amplifying interpretive rules. On December 17 the period closed for submitting comments on rules proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to implement whistleblower provisions added in a new Section 21F to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act). With the comment period having closed, and final rules expected to be implemented in the Spring of 2011, this is a good time to take account of the proposed rules regarding the statute’s anti-retaliation provisions and their potential impact on employers.   

Dodd-Frank authorizes bounty awards to eligible whistleblowers who voluntarily provide original information to the SEC about a violation of the federal securities laws leading to a successful enforcement action and resulting in a monetary sanction exceeding $1,000,000.  It is not surprising that much of the analysis and media attention generated by Dodd-Frank concerns the bases on which the SEC will make determinations about paying potentially enormous bounty awards that can range from 10% to 30% of the amount of monetary sanctions. 

Section 21F also protects whistleblowers against retaliation by their employers, with the scope of protection circumscribed by the statutory definition of a whistleblower.  Rather than providing protection equally for internal disclosures to the employer and external disclosures to authorized agencies and authorities, as is seen commonly in whistleblower statutes, Section 21F protects only certain external disclosures. It defines a whistleblower narrowly as any individual, acting alone or jointly, who provides information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the SEC in the manner prescribed by the SEC.

Continue Reading SEC’s Proposed Dodd-Frank Anti-Retaliation Rules: What Is An Employer To Do?