After four tries, Congress on Tuesday passed a bill prohibiting employers from retaliating against whistleblowers who report violations of antitrust laws to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The “Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act of 2019” (S.2258), sponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), passed the House on a voice vote after being unanimously approved by the Senate in October 2019. The bill had previously been approved by the Senate in 2013, 2015, and 2017 but had consistently stalled in the House.
The bill now heads to the desk of President Donald Trump.
The bill prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report criminal antitrust violations while also allowing whistleblowers who believe they are a victim of retaliation to file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor. The Labor Department could rule the employee who had been retaliated against for blowing the whistle on antitrust violations should be reinstated to his or her previous position.
Big Tech has been the most high-profile industry placed under a microscope by federal law enforcement regarding antitrust investigations, most notably the DOJ’s lawsuit filed against search engine Google earlier this year. On Wednesday, dozens of states led by New York Attorney General Letitia James filed an antitrust lawsuit in federal court against social media giant Facebook.
Enhanced protections for antitrust whistleblowers could bring cases against other social media heavyweights.
“This bipartisan bill is an important step to safeguarding fair marketplaces as well as the whistleblowers who support them. It’s earned broad support in both chambers of Congress, and I urge President Trump to sign it into law without delay,” Grassley said in a statement.
“In an era where dominant corporations aggressively seek to expand their profits and quash competitors, our laws should protect whistleblowers who take significant risks to report criminal antitrust violations like price fixing that undermine free and fair competition,” Leahy added.
The Grassley-Leahy bill is based on recommendations from a Government Accountability Office report released in July 2011.
The bill does not set up a system for antitrust whistleblowers to be compensated, like federal whistleblower programs administered by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Internal Revenue Service or the system set up under the DOJ that offers payouts to whistleblowers who file federal lawsuits alleging violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and False Claims Act.