Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Jared Bowen, a former vice-president at Wal-Mart, has filed a whistleblower complaint with the Department of Labor over his termination by the company in late March, which he claims was in retaliation for disclosing expense-account abuses by former executive and board member Thomas Coughlin. The company reported to the U.S. Attorney in March that Coughlin had submitted false invoices for up to $500,000, and there is a grand jury investigation of Coughlin. Just to complicate matters, Coughlin's attorney has hinted that the funds were used to make secret payments to union officials for information about organizing drives involving Wal-Mart employees (see earlier post here). Bowen asserts that he reported two instances of improper billing by Coughlin, but was terminated because he failed to report a third instance of misconduct involving Coughlin and that there was a "loss of confidence" in him.
Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act created protections for employees of publicly-traded companies who report misconduct involving fraud (18 U.S.C. Sec.1514A here). The provision provides the following remedies:
(1) IN GENERAL- An employee prevailing in any action under subsection (b)(1) shall be entitled to all relief necessary to make the employee whole.
(2) COMPENSATORY DAMAGES- Relief for any action under paragraph (1) shall include--
(A) reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee would have had, but for the discrimination;
(B) the amount of back pay, with interest; and
(C) compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the discrimination, including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney fees.