Federal Jury in California Awards Over $8 Million to General Counsel Whistleblower

Whistleblowers may take heed of a February 2017 jury award to a General Counsel, who had been in his position for 25 years, of $3 million in back wages (which is doubled under the Dodd-Frank Act) and $5 million in punitive damages, for a total of nearly $11 million.  The case pitted Sanford Wadler against Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc., a public company, which fired him.  The California federal district court made a number of rulings leading up to the jury award, but perhaps the most significant decision came in 2015, when the court found that under the Dodd-Frank Act and the rules promulgated by the Securities and Exchange Commission under it, it is unnecessary for a whistleblower to provide information to the SEC to sue the company as long as the whistleblowing follows the internal procedures of the company.  See Wadler v. Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc., 141 F. Supp. 3d 1005, 1022-25 (N.D. Cal. 2015).   The court also decided that Wadler could sue individual directors under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act, although for procedural reasons they were not included.  The case is viewed as a landmark, both for the court decisions and for the size of the jury verdict.