WASHINGTON, D.C. | August 17, 2023 — On August 16, National Whistleblower Center (NWC) filed an amicus curiae brief arguing for the preliminary reinstatement of two Exxon whistleblowers to be upheld. The Third Circuit case, Lindsey Gulden and Damian Burch v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, is centered on the question of whether a district court has jurisdiction under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) to enforce the preliminary reinstatement of whistleblowers as ordered by the Department of Labor.
“This Third Circuit decision will be a pivotal moment for corporate whistleblowers,” says NWC Executive Director Siri Nelson. “A failure to reverse the district court’s denial of jurisdiction will render the preliminary reinstatement remedy powerless and put thousands of employees at risk for retaliatory discharge.”
“SOX was created to improve corporate accountability and encourage whistleblowers to come forward, the Third Circuit should uphold the intent behind this law, and reverse the district court’s decision,” Nelson adds.
Gulden and Burch are two scientists who were fired from Exxon after they raised concerns internally that their team was pressured by Exxon management to manipulate data concerning oil output in order to boost the company’s public filings. In response to a whistleblower retaliation complaint filed by the whistleblowers under SOX, the Department of Labor issued a preliminary order calling for the reinstatement of the whistleblowers in October 2022. Exxon refused to reinstate the scientists and a district court ruled it did not have jurisdiction to enforce the DOL order. The Third Circuit is hearing the whistleblowers’ appeal of this decision.
“The finding that this court does not have subject matter jurisdiction is disastrous for corporate whistleblowers and corporate accountability efforts, and completely undermines the Secretary of Labor’s authority rendering preliminary reinstatement moot and incentivizing defendants to disregard administrative orders,” NWC’s brief states. “Reversal of the district court decision is necessary to maintain corporate integrity and prevent a chilling effect for whistleblowers nationwide.”
NWC Executive Director Siri Nelson is available for comment. For more information, contact NWC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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NWC is the leading nonprofit working with whistleblowers worldwide to fight corruption and protect people and the environment. For over 30 years, NWC has won policies to protect whistleblowers from retaliation and reward them for helping deliver criminal and civil penalties against wrongdoers.