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OSHA Fines DISH Network $250K for Blacklisting Whistleblower

March 31, 2014

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has ordered DISH Network to pay a former employee more than $250,000 for violating the anti-retaliatory provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. "A worker has a right to report wrongdoing to their employer without fear of retaliation," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. Full details inside.

OSHA Moves On New Whistleblower Protections for Food Industry

February 13, 2014

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will add new whistleblower protections for food industry workers through a rule that establishes procedures for handling retaliation complaints as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act. In December, OSHA set up an online form to give employees an expedited way to report retaliation and contact the agency for assistance. More inside.

Ethics Survey Finds Historically Low Rate of Workplace Misdeeds

February 04, 2014

Workplace misconduct is at an historic low and has significantly declined since 2007, finds a new survey of employees. The percentage of companies viewed as having a strong ethics culture also jumped to 66 percent from 60 percent when the survey was last conducted two years ago. Nearly every type of misconduct, including serious fraud, declined according to the survey. More findings inside.

Analytics, Whistleblowers Drive Surge in Enforcement Activity

December 31, 2013

2013 was a banner year for enforcement agencies, as they won eye-popping settlements on everything from Foreign Corrupt Practices Act cases to mortgage fraud. Rather than ease up in 2014, look for the Department of Justice and the SEC to double down, leveraging whistleblowers and data analytics to spot fraud. Inside we took at the top enforcement trends to expect in 2014.

SEC Pays Out $150,000 to Reward Another Whistleblower

October 30, 2013

It may not be the big money of a $14 million dollar award doled out earlier this month, but the Securities and Exchange Commission has rewarded yet another whistleblower under a bounty program established by the Dodd-Frank Act. This time, the take was $150,000 for tips that helped stop a scheme that was defrauding investors. More inside.

SEC Awards Whistleblower $14 Million, Largest Bounty Thus Far

October 01, 2013

With its largest reward yet, the Securities and Exchange Commission will give more than $14 million to a whistleblower whose information led to an enforcement action that recovered substantial investor funds. Scant details about the case were provided, but experts expect the tip led to at least $46 million in fines or recovered assets. More inside.

Internal Investigations Require Strategy, Not Just Detective Work

June 04, 2013

Columbo probably wouldn't cut it as a compliance officer in charge of internal investigations. Far from the drama-filled detective work portrayed in movies and television, corporate internal investigations deal more with rigorous discovery protocols than third-act plot twists. Three former prosecutors, now serving in compliance-related positions, spoke at the Compliance Week 2013 conference last month. Their tips for conducting effective internal investigations are inside.

Preventing Retaliation Starts With Promoting a 'Speak-Up' Culture

January 02, 2013

Legal actions related to retaliation are more pervasive than many executives realize. In 2011, more than one-third of the nearly 100,000 workplace discrimination cases filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission consisted of retaliation claims. In the latest installment of our GRC Illustrated series, we look at how fostering a "speak-up" culture can help reduce retaliation and encourage employees to report concerns before they become big problems.

What the Sports World Can Teach About Compliance

September 05, 2012

Compliance officers love to share examples of misconduct lapses at other companies to remind executives about the risks that lurk below the surface. Another area might also provide good cases: compliance failures in the sports world. From Penn State's abuse scandal to "bounty-gate" with the New Orleans Saints, companies are finding plenty of teachable moments on the playing field. More inside.

Study Finds Rising Level of Misconduct at Large Companies

August 07, 2012

A new survey by the Ethics Resource Center of ethics at U.S. Fortune 500 companies holds good news and bad news for compliance officers: Employees are more willing than ever to report wrongdoing, but levels of misconduct and whistleblower retaliation remain high. Also among the top findings, just 1 percent of employees made their first report to the government or other outside authority. More results inside.

Hotline Benchmarking Report Reveals Insight Into Compliance

July 24, 2012

A recent report on compliance hotline calls has some alarming findings: fraud and instances of retaliation against those who report it are on the rise. Cases related to fraud hit 21.1 percent of all reports last year, up from 13.6 percent in 2007. "The fact that we're continuing to see this level, even though the recovery is going on, is a surprise," says Luis Ramos, chief executive officer of The Network, publisher of the report.

Regulators Provide Details on SEC, CFTC Whistleblower Programs

June 12, 2012

During a panel discussion at the Compliance Week 2012 conference in Washington D. C. last week, Jane Norberg, deputy chief for the Securities and Exchange Commission's Office of the Whistleblower, and Vincente Martinez, director of the Whistleblower Office for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, tackled some of the most common questions about the new whistleblower initiatives. Details inside.

OSHA Memo Cautions Against Discriminatory Workplace Safety Policies

May 08, 2012

An internal notice at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration contains several warnings for employers on workplace policies and procedures that could be considered as retaliation against whistleblowers. Among the potentially questionable practices are awards and bonus programs tied to injury rates. Details inside.

More Clues on SEC Whistleblower Office

February 28, 2012

The SEC now receives an average of seven tips each day to its new Office of the Whistleblower, according to agency officials, and compliance departments are scrambling to shore up their own internal compliance operations in response. "Most of the activity we see is on investigation protocols around hotline calls," says Steve Kuzma of Ernst & Young. More inside.

Olympus Fraud Renews Focus on Corporate Governance

February 07, 2012

The accounting fraud at Olympus Corp. could serve as a catalyst to corporate governance reform in Japan, as a series of accounting scandals did here in the United States. According to an independent investigative report, the problems at Olympus stem from a "yes men" culture that is too common among Japanese companies and discourages whistleblowers from coming forward. Details inside.

Can Whistleblower Retaliation Lead to Racketeering Charges?

January 17, 2012

A recent court decision expands protections for whistleblowers and could put companies that retaliate against them in violation of racketeering laws enacted to combat organized crime. Based on the ruling, companies could also be exposed to whistleblower retaliation claims even if they are later cleared of the alleged wrongdoing. More details inside.

Workplace Ethics on the Decline?

January 17, 2012

A new survey from the Ethics Resource Center indicates that workplace ethics may be deteriorating. The survey found a rise in retaliation against whistleblowers, more employees who say they feel pressure to compromise standards, and an increase in the number of companies that are considered to have weak ethics cultures. More survey results inside.

Study: Whistleblowers Want Anonymity, Monetary Rewards

January 10, 2012

Whistleblowers are far more likely to report wrongdoing if they are given a monetary reward, anonymity, and protection from retaliation, says a recent survey by law firm Labaton Sucharow. Since only the SEC is paying a reward right now, that's bad news for compliance departments. But two-thirds of respondents said they weren't aware of the SEC's whistleblower program launched last year. More results inside.

OSHA Makes It Easier to File a Whistleblower Claim

November 22, 2011

Psst—looking for a roadmap to how OSHA investigates whistleblower complaints? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has updated its Whistleblower Investigations Manual with new guidance paving the way for employees to file whistleblower claims. OSHA investigators also have new procedures to follow when investigating claims, and companies face more penalties for violations. Full coverage inside.

The Reasonable Person: Internal Audit's Role in Internal Investigations

November 08, 2011

Yes, sometimes the best response to an allegation of misconduct is to commission an external investigation—but in many cases, an internal investigation will do just as well. How can you assure objectivity and independence in those cases? Inside, Compliance Week Columnist José Tabuena explores internal audit's role in serving as the "reasonable person" whose expectations are what counts in court.

Ruling Increases Protections for Whistleblowers

October 11, 2011

A ruling by the Department of Labor's Administrative Review Board increases protections for whistleblowers, meaning companies will have to be even more vigilant about how they treat those who allege misconduct. The ruling faulted Halliburton for disclosing the identity of a whistleblower. It sets "a new standard for what constitutes an adverse employment action," says Steve Pearlman, a partner with law firm Seyfarth Shaw.

More Legal Challenges to Dodd-Frank Could Be in the Works

August 30, 2011

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is mulling what rules of the Dodd-Frank Act to challenge next, now that it has defeated a rule to allow shareholder proxy access. Likely targets include proposed rules for conflict minerals, pay-ratio disclosures, and clawbacks. "We will focus specifically on rules and provisions that impact the ability of companies to raise capital and remain competitive globally," Chamber spokesman Tom Quaadman says.

Dodd-Frank, One Year Later

July 26, 2011

The Dodd-Frank Act hit its one-year anniversary last week, which makes this as good a time as any to review what the prior year has wrought. But while the landmark legislation has elevated the importance of many compliance functions, much work still remains to be done. "Unless one has a superb crystal ball, it is way too early to assess Dodd-Frank," says Lynn Turner, former chief accountant at the SEC.

Can Auditors Become Whistleblowers Under the SEC's New Program?

July 12, 2011

The SEC's new whistleblower rules exclude external auditors from participating in its bounty program, which rewards those who alert the SEC to corporate wrongdoing. But auditors still have some avenues to pursue a payout, lawyers say. "The net result is that auditors are able to become whistleblowers in some circumstances," says David Woodcock, a partner with law firm Vinson & Elkins. Details inside.

Life Under New Whistleblower Rules

June 21, 2011

The SEC's new whistleblower bounty program is here, and corporate compliance departments should start acting accordingly. That means a review of employees exempted from collecting the rewards, a fresh look at confidentiality agreements, and more. Above all, encourage a culture of speaking up, because "The SEC is clearly pushing companies to self-report," says Robert Wild of the law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman.

Whistleblower Rules Could Set Off a Rash of Internal Investigations

June 01, 2011

The Securities and Exchange Commission has adopted final rules to reward whistleblowers whose tips lead to successful enforcement actions. While the final version added incentives for employees to report wrongdoing internally, corporate lawyers say the rules will lead to more internal investigations and make them more complex. Details inside.

A Conversation With Rio Tinto's Top Compliance Minder

May 24, 2011

Neville Tiffen took over the top compliance job at global mining company Rio Tinto two years ago. Since then he's orchestrated a full review of the company's compliance program. Inside, Tiffen details his thinking on the U.K. Bribery Act, the quick pace of U.S. regulation, and how to build a culture that encourages employees to speak up when they see someone doing the wrong thing.

SEC Will Vote on Final Whistleblower Rule on May 25

May 20, 2011

The Securities and Exchange Commission will decide whether to pass the final rules for the whistleblower incentives and protection program at its open meeting on Wednesday. The Commission will also consider proposing a rule to disqualify securities offerings involving certain "felons and other bad actors" from reliance on the safe harbor exemption.

Companies Fear Lawsuits, Higher Costs From Whistleblower Rules

April 26, 2011

As the SEC prepares to issue final rules on the whistleblower provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, companies are raising concerns that the regulations will lead to more frivolous claims, more lawsuits, and higher compliance costs. Worse, companies say they will face fraud claims from unnamed sources that will be nearly impossible to investigate. Details inside.

Accountant Wins Tax Whistleblower Award, Counsel Says

April 08, 2011

The Internal Revenue Service has paid a $4.5 million whistleblower reward to an in-house accountant who reported a $20 million tax liability at a Fortune 500 financial company. The whistleblower's lawyer says his client got 22 percent of the tax recovery, the first such payment since the IRS bounty program began more than four years ago.

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