Modern Whistleblower Retaliation Law and the SEC Bounty Program

Friday, March 3, 2017
12:00 PM to 1:30 PM ET

Price: $224 Webinar


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This program will focus on key aspects of modern whistleblower retaliation law, SEC enforcement actions involving pre-taliation, and the SEC Office of the Whistleblower bounty program.  More specifically, our presenters will identify and explain common claims and defenses and related issues under the whistleblower protection provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley, Dodd-Frank and similar whistleblower laws.  This includes issues of (i) coverage, (ii) protected activity, (iii) causation, and (iv) damages. They will also focus on the SEC’s involvement in whistleblower retaliation litigation in an amicus capacity.  In addition, our presenters will discuss the SEC’s enforcement of Dodd-Frank’s prohibition on “pre-taliation”—i.e., impediments to whistleblower reports to or communications with the SEC and limitations on current or former employees’ cooperation with the SEC in connection with investigations.  Our presenters will also focus on the functioning of the SEC Office of the Whistleblower, including its approach to whistleblower tips and trends in issuing bounty awards.

Educational Objectives:
• Understanding key claims and defenses in litigation under SOX, Dodd-Frank and similar whistleblower retaliation laws around the country.
• Understanding the pre-taliation risks associated with employment-related agreements, confidentiality agreements, severance agreements and settlement agreements in order to minimize the risk of an SEC enforcement action.
• Understanding the SEC Office of the Whistleblower bounty program and current trends.

Who would benefit most from attending this program?

High level in-house counsel and compliance professionals, as well as potential whistleblowers.


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Steven Pearlman is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the firm's Whistleblowing & Retaliation Group. Steven’s practice focuses on defending complex employment litigation involving claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation; wage-and-hour laws; breach of employment contract; and restrictive covenants (e.g., non-competition agreements). Steven is also at the forefront of defending whistleblower retaliation claims, and routinely conducts investigations arising from whistleblower reports. He has successfully testified in defense of his investigations in federal court. In addition, he has successfully tried cases to verdict in Illinois, Florida and California, and defended what is reported to be the largest Illinois-only class action in the history of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Steven is recognized for his accomplishments and thought leadership in the field of labor and employment law. He was one of two lawyers named to the Ethisphere "Attorneys Who Matter" list in the area of labor and employment, one of five U.S. lawyers selected by Law 360 as a "Rising Star Under 40" in the area of employment law and one of "40 Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch" selected by Law Bulletin Publishing Company from a field of 1,200 nominees. He has also been named as an Illinois Super Lawyer and recognized by The U.S. Legal 500. Also, Steven is a 2014 Burton Award Winner (U.S. Library of Congress) for "Distinguished Legal Writing." In addition, Steven was named to the Law 360 Employment Editorial Advisory Board (2014 and 2015).  Steven was appointed to serve as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the State of Illinois in employment litigation matters. The U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) Administrative Review Board has invited him to serve as a stakeholder in its rule-making and related proceedings and to serve in an amicus curiae capacity. A sought-after commentator, Steven has presented alongside the Solicitor of the DoL, appeared on Bloomberg News (television and radio), is regularly quoted in leading publications such as The Wall Street Journal and serves as an editor of Proskauer’s Whistleblower Defense Blog.

In addition, the RAND Corporation (one of the world’s leading think-tanks) selected Steven to present at an exclusive symposium comprised of some of the most influential thought leaders and policy makers, including top officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission, on whistleblower laws and related policy issues on the eve of the issuance of the regulations to the Dodd-Frank whistleblower provisions.Steven is deeply committed to providing pro bono services to individuals who are unable to afford legal resources.


As the former Chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission Whistleblower Office, Sean McKessy provides singular insight and unparalleled knowledge of the SEC whistleblower program in his work with Phillips & Cohen clients.  Mr. McKessy was the first Chief of the SEC Whistleblower Office and helped establish the processes the office follows and the policies that guide the SEC whistleblower program. His office assessed and reviewed whistleblower tips, evaluated whistleblower award claims and made whistleblower award recommendations to the Commission.

During his five-year tenure, he was a tireless advocate for whistleblowers and an outspoken proponent of the SEC program. He played a key role in the SEC's efforts to protect whistleblowers using Dodd-Frank's anti-retaliation provisions and to punish employers that discouraged employees from reporting wrongdoing to the SEC through employment agreements and other means.  Mr. McKessy also actively encouraged whistleblowers in other countries who knew of violations of the US anti-bribery law, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, as well as other securities violations to report them to the SEC and file whistleblower claims.  Under his leadership, the SEC Whistleblower Office was authorized by the Commission to pay whistleblower awards totaling nearly $100 million - a record-setting pace for a government whistleblower reward program. The SEC recovered more than $500 million in sanctions as a result of the whistleblowers' information and assistance. The SEC awarded Mr. McKessy its Law and Policy Award in 2011 in recognition of his work implementing the whistleblower program created by the Dodd-Frank Act.  In a previous stint at the SEC, he was a senior counsel in the Enforcement Division for three years.  After leaving that position, Mr. McKessy served as corporate secretary for Altria Group Inc. and AOL Inc. and as securities counsel for Caterpillar Inc. He worked on internal compliance and reporting matters related to federal securities laws for those companies.

Mr. McKessy received his law degree from the George Washington University Law School. He is admitted to the bar in Virginia, Illinois and Washington, DC.