Media Leak is not Protected as a SOX Whistleblower

Leaking information to the media about bad financial controls is not protected by SOX whistleblower retaliation clause.

Nicholas P. Tides and Matthew C. Neumann were working as “Audit IT SOX auditors” at The Boeing Company. They made several complaints about auditing deficiencies to their supervisors. They claimed “that Boeing’s auditing culture was unethical and that the work environment was hostile to those who sought change.”

So they took their story to Andrea James, a reporter from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, providing her with information and documents.

Boeing ended up firing Tides and Neumann. They sued claiming they were wrongly fired as whistleblowers and were protected under Section 806 of Sarbanes-Oxley.

The court pointed out that 18 USC § 1514A(a)(1) states that the protection exists when

the information or assistance is provided to or the investigation is conducted by—

(A) a Federal regulatory or law enforcement agency;

(B) any Member of Congress or any committee of Congress; or

(C) a person with supervisory authority over the employee (or such other person working for the employer who has the authority to investigate, discover, or terminate misconduct)

None of these three cover a reporter or media outlet, so no protection to the whistleblower.

Sources:

Disclosure: I own some Boeing stock.

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