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Lawson v. FMR: Private Contractors of Public Companies Fall Within SOX Anti-Retaliation Provision

 

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Former Wells Fargo Employee Awarded $5.4 million in Whistleblower Retaliation Lawsuit

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has ordered Wells Fargo to reinstate and compensate an unnamed, former bank manager who was retaliated against and terminated in 2010 after reporting suspected fraudulent behavior to his superiors as well as through a bank ethics hotline. The whistleblower reported separate incidents of suspected bank, mail, and wire fraud by bankers under his supervision in relation to Wells Fargo’s illegal sales practices going back as far as 2005. As many as 2 million checking and credit card accounts were opened under customers’ names without their permission, a violation for which Wells Fargo paid $185 million as a settlement in September 2016.

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Federal False Claims Act Basics

Enacted during the Civil War by President Abraham Lincoln and strengthened in 1986, 2009, and 2010, the Federal False Claims Act (FCA) bestows liability on anyone who makes, causes, or conspires to make a false or fraudulent claim to the United States government, including situations in which a person falsely certifies compliance with a condition of payment or recklessly ignores the falsity of claim. Fines under the FCA can range from $5000- $10,000 (adjusted for inflation) in addition to 3 times the amount of damages that the government sustains due to the false claim. The defendant will also be liable for any costs of litigation incurred to recover these damages. The general statute of limitations is 6 years from the date of violation.

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