Two former Boeing staff members learned the hard way that SOX whistleblower rights do not extend when the whistle is blown to the media, rather than to their company supervisors, federal agencies, or Congress.
According to BusinessWeek and other news agencies, Matthew Neumann and Nicholas Tides were employees in Boeing’s info technology audit department when they discovered what they considered to be SOX-violating audit practices. Neumann and Tides provided information – including confidential Boeing documents and e-mail -- about these purported violations to a journalist, who then published an article about the situation. Boeing responded by firing Neumann and Tides for violating the company’s media nondisclosure policies.
In 2008 Neumann and Tides sued Boeing for wrongful termination under SOX’s whistleblower protection statutes. But two courts have denied that claim, saying that these protections apply only when the employees provide information about alleged securities violations to company supervisors, federal agencies, or Congress.
The takeaway here for employees? Read your company’s whistleblower policies before talking to anyone – especially the media -- about possible SOX violations. Being a whistleblower is tough enough. Be sure to follow the proper procedures so that you don’t end up paying the price for your employer’s misconduct. Your company should have a whistleblower hotline which should be your first step in reporting any wrongdoing. The company is required by law to follow up on all whistleblower claims and using the proper protocol will help to ensure your protection and rights under the legislation.The takeaway here for employers? The new whistleblower provisions under the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 have outlined monetary incentives for employees to make legitimate claims. Be sure your company has reviewed these recent changes to whistleblower protections and is communicating the appropriate information to your employees on how to report them