Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: February 21, 2018
  • Case #: 16-1276
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BREYER, J., joined. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which ALITO and GORSUCH, JJ., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

The Dodd-Frank Act’s anti-retaliation provision allowing an award to whistleblowers does not extend to those reporters who have not provided information directly to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a whistleblower is protected from retaliation and is eligible for an award for reporting violations. To receive the award, a whistleblower must give information to the SEC – it is not enough to only inform the employer of violations. In this case, Respondent, an employee, sued Petitioner, the employer, alleging that Petitioner fired Respondent in retaliation for Respondent’s report to management detailing Petitioner’s violations. Respondent sought the award available under the Dodd-Frank Act. The District Court and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found in favor of Respondent. The Supreme Court reversed, interpreting the Dodd-Frank Act’s definition of an award-eligible whistleblower as one who alerts the SEC. Because the Respondent did not notify the SEC of the relevant violations, the Court reasoned that the Respondent could not recover under the award-eligibility provision. The Court read the Dodd-Frank Act’s remaining clauses under the retaliatory protection provision also only apply when the whistleblower has notified the Commission. The court emphasized the objective of the Dodd-Frank Act, which is to promote reporting to the Commission, thus to benefit from its reward, whistleblowers must do “what Dodd Frank seeks to achieve.” REVERSED and REMANDED.

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