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Proposed whistleblower protection law seeks to improve on Dodd-Frank

Sen. Tammy Baldwin speaks at a podium to introduce the WARN Act to enhance whistleblower protections.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Elijah Cummings introduced the WARN Act Thursday.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) introduced new legislation Thursday that aims to improve whistleblower protections on Wall Street.

The Whistleblower Augmented Reward and Non-Retaliation Act of 2016, or WARN Act, seeks to take the whistleblower protections already afforded in Dodd-Frank and enhance them.

The Dodd-Frank Act took a major first step when it was enacted in 2010 by barring employers from retaliating against whistleblowers for informing the SEC about financial fraud. It banned retaliation in many forms, including by firing, threatening, harassing, or demoting a whistleblower.

In the years since, companies on Wall Street have come up with new and creative ways to circumvent that law and make life difficult for any potential whistleblower. Companies have engaged in tactics like forcing employees to sign agreements that prohibit them from receiving whistleblower awards and counter-suing whistleblowers for theft of property.

Cummings and Baldwin said the WARN Act aims to close those loopholes.

“Whistleblowers who report abuses on Wall Street often put their careers and livelihoods at risk,” said Cummings, who is the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee. “When we in Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act, we put in place protections for whistleblowers that are now being undermined by financial firms. Our bill would address these abuses and create stronger protections for whistleblowers who shine a light on corporate malfeasance.”

“If we strengthen and empower whistleblowers in the financial industry, we can do a better job of holding Wall Street accountable,” Baldwin added.

Here are some of the WARN Act’s key provisions, according to the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform:

  • prohibit employers from forcing whistleblowers to waive their rights or disclose their communications with the government;
  • safeguard whistleblowers from retaliation if they refuse to participate in activities they believe to be in violation of the law; and
  • apply procedures, evidentiary standards, and burdens of proof that allow whistleblowers to show that the exercise of protected behavior was a contributing factor leading to an unfavorable personnel action
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