U.S. Supreme Court Narrows Definition of "Whistleblower" Featured

  21 February 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Digital Reality Inc. v. Somers, has narrowed the definition of "whistleblower." The case involves Paul Somers, who was the Vice President at Digital Realty Trust, Inc., from 2010 to 2014. During this time he filed reports to senior management about possible securities law violations by the company. Digital Realty eventually terminated Somers, and he filed suit in the U.S. district court for California, alleging that Digital Realty terminated him for his reports of securities law violations in violation of the anti-retaliation protections of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Dodd-Frank was passed in 2010 following the 2008 financial crisis and expanded the whistleblower incentives and protections under the 2002 Sarbanese-Oxley Act. The district court held Somers was a “whistleblower” under the statute, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision on behalf of Somers. Digital Realty subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that Somers was not a “whistleblower” as defined by Dodd-Frank because Somers did not report his concerns to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) before he was terminated. On January 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision, overturning the 9th Circuit by holding that Somers was not a “whistleblower” as defined by Dodd-Frank, because he did not first report his claims to the SEC. Read more here.