Politics

Leahy and Grassley look to expand whistle-blower protections

The leadership of the Senate judiciary committee is aiming to expand legal protections offered to corporate whistle-blowers, this time pertaining to information relating to antitrust cases.

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Senate judiciary committee, reintroduced the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act on Wednesday.

The bill would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who come forward to the Justice Department with information about their employer relating to the violation of criminal antitrust laws.

The bill would also allow employees fired for their whistle-blower activities legal recourse by filing a complaint through the secretary of labor. If the secretary of labor finds in the employee’s favor, the employer would be required to reinstate the employee to full employment status.

The two senators first introduced the new bill in July 2012. It died after being referred to committee.

“Congress should encourage employees with information about criminal antitrust activity, such as price fixing, to report that information by offering meaningful protection to those who blow the whistle rather than leaving them vulnerable to reprisals,” said Leahy in a statement Wednesday.

Grassley said in a statement that too often “whistle-blowers who expose waste, fraud and abuse are treated like second-class citizens.”

The legislation, Leahy said,  is based on recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office in 2011, as well as the protections both senators sought to include as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, which was a reaction to several corporate scandals, including the Enron fiasco.

The section in Sarbanes-Oxley on criminal penalties for retaliation against whistle-blowers states that “[w]hoever knowingly, with the intent to retaliate, takes any action harmful to any person, including interference with the lawful employment or livelihood of any person, for providing to a law enforcement officer any truthful information relating to the commission or possible commission of any federal offense, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

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