February 8, 2024

Unanimous Supreme Court Victory for Corporate Whistleblower on Rules to Win

WASHINGTON—Today, in a win for corporate and financial whistleblowers, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected a corporate challenge to the burdens of proof that determine who wins in 18 whistleblower statutes enacted since 1992. The immediate context was the anti-retaliation shield in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 for 60 million workers in publicly traded companies. Murray v. UBS SECURITIES, LLC.,

Trevor Murray filed a whistleblower action alleging that UBS terminated his employment in violation of 18 U.S.C.  §1514A which states that employers may not “discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or in any other manner discriminate against an employee in the terms and conditions of employment because of” protected whistleblowing activity.

Murray had worked for UBS as a research strategist when he informed his supervisor that two leaders of the UBS trading desk were engaging in what he believed to be unethical and illegal efforts to skew his independent reporting. UBS terminated Murray shortly after.   Lawyers for UBS argued that Murray failed to show “retaliatory animus” in the decision to terminate his employment.  The Supreme Court rejected this analysis, clearing the way for UBS to be held accountable for their discriminatory firing of Murray in violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

Legal Director Tom Devine, co-counsel on amicus (friend of the court) briefs supporting Murray, commented,

“Today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision was the Waterloo for marathon big business attacks on fair standards to enforce corporate whistleblower rights. The game is over.

Burdens of proof are the rules of the game for which side must produce how much evidence to win. In numerous lawsuits climaxed by Murray, big business has tried to rewrite the law so that victimized employees would have to prove retaliatory motives, instead of employers having to prove innocent ones. It is not realistic for an employee to read the organization’s mind. If big business had won, the whistleblower protection laws would be traps with rules rigged to rubber stamp retaliation.”

Government Accountability Project was co-counsel for Senators Charles Grassley (R. Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D.-Oregon) for friend of the court briefs defending the burdens of proof. Attorneys Ned Miltenberg, Alan Morrison and Jason Zuckerman were our partners.

Lead counsel, Alan Morrison, urges employees and employers to heed the words of Justice Sotomayer in her unanimous opinion, “the health, safety, or well-being of the public may well depend on whistleblowers feeling empowered to come forward. This Court cannot override that policy choice by giving employers more protection than the statute itself provides.”

Contact: Andrew Harman, Government Accountability Project Communications Director

Email:[email protected]

Government Accountability Project   

Government Accountability Project is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, Government Accountability Project’s mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, Government Accountability Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.