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Law Offices of Elizabeth “Booka” Smith, LLC Blog

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February 6, 2017: Former Bio-Rad General Counsel Awarded Over $10M in Whistleblower Retaliation Case

 

On Monday, February 6, 2017, after only three hours of deliberation, a California federal jury determined that Sanford “Sandy” Wadler, the former General Counsel for Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (“Bio-Rad”), was wrongfully terminated after he raised concerns about Bid-Rad’s potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). The jury awarded Wadler $2.96M in back pay and stock compensation and $5M in punitive damages. Wadler, who had been Bio-Rad’s General Counsel for over 20 years, was fired in June, 2013, just about four months after he issued a written report to the Company’s Audit Committee about the potential FCPA violations in China. Wadler filed his lawsuit in 2015, asserting claims against Bio-Rad and certain individual members of the Board of Directors for retaliatory discharge in violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”), the Dodd-Frank Act (“Dodd Frank”), and California common law. Early on in the litigation, U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero denied Bio-Rad’s motion to dismiss the individual Directors from the lawsuit, holding that SOX and Dodd Frank both allow individual liability for retaliatory discharge. Judge Spero also denied Bio-Rad’s motion to dismiss Wadler’s Dodd-Frank claim holding that a Dodd-Frank whistleblower is not required to report misconduct to the Securities Exchange Commission, and that internal whistleblowing is enough. Further, prior to trial, Judge Spero made significant evidentiary rulings in Wadler’s favor allowing him to use documents containing privileged attorney-client communications that were reasonably necessary to prove his case. Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, Wadler’s back pay award will be doubled by the Court, thereby increasing the total damages award to over $10M. According to reports, the jury found it significant that Bio-Rad created a false 2012 negative performance review of Wadler in an effort to justify his termination. Metadata evidence established that the review dated 2012 was actually created in July, 2013, a month after the termination. The judicial opinions and the jury verdict in Wadler versus Bio-Rad (United States District Court for the Northern District of California Case No. 15-cv-02356-JCS) are significant in their clear support for remedies for corporate counsel who blow-the-whistle on corporate wrongdoing. As discussed in an earlier blog post (see August 22, 2016: In-House/General Counsel as Whistleblower), courts across the country are divided on the scope of protection and remedies SOX and Dodd-Frank allow in whistleblower retaliation cases, particularly for in-house attorneys. The Law Offices of Elizabeth “Booka” Smith, LLC has significant experience advocating for the rights of attorney whistleblowers and has expertise in representing general counsel and corporate attorneys in whistleblower retaliation cases. If you are a current or former in-house/general counsel and are either contemplating blowing the whistle on your company, or if you have and have been retaliated against because of your whistleblowing activities, CONTACT US to schedule an appointment for advice on your best course of action.

 

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