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Supreme Court rules for whistleblowers in challenge to Sarbanes-Oxley

March 4, 2014 at 2:46 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, March 4 (UPI) -- Whistleblowers at privately held companies are protected from firing if their employers contract with public companies, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In a split decision, the court reversed an appellate decision allowing FMR, a company that managed Fidelity mutual funds, to fire two employees who alleged fraud. FMR argued, and the appeals court agreed, that the whistleblower protections in the Sarbanes-Oxley law, passed after the Enron debacle, apply only to employees of publicly held companies.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority, said the court's opinion "avoids insulating virtually the entire mutual fund industry" from Sarbanes-Oxley because almost all funds are managed by privately held contractors and have no employees of their own.

Six justices concurred with Ginsburg's conclusion although Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas issued their own opinion disagreeing with some of her reasoning. Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy dissented.

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