On December 8, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act, which extends anti-retaliation protections to private sector whistleblowers who expose criminal antitrust violations. The bill unanimously passed in the Senate in 2019 and must now be signed into law by the President.
Long-time whistleblower advocates Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the bill in 2019. When the bill passed in the Senate, Senator Grassley released a statement which read: “Competition is essential to a thriving, affordable and innovative marketplace. When our antitrust laws are violated, consumers are often left paying the price. The Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act, which passed today in the U.S. Senate, encourages private sector employees to blow the whistle on activities that violate our antitrust laws and harm consumers.”
The Act establishes whistleblower protections for private sector employees who provide information regarding criminal antitrust violations to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Under the bill, whistleblowers who believe they have faced retaliation in response to making a protected disclosure may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor. Whistleblowers have 180 days from the act of retaliation to file a complaint. Acts of retaliation covered by the bill include termination, suspension, demotion, threats, harassment, and other forms of discrimination.
Under the Act, if the Secretary of Labor rules in favor of the whistleblower, the whistleblower is entitled to reinstatement, back pay with interest, and “compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the discrimination including litigation costs, expert witness fees, and reasonable attorney’s fees.” Furthermore, if the Secretary of Labor does not issue a decision within 180 days of the whistleblower’s complaint, the bill allows the whistleblower to pursue a de novo review of the case in the appropriate district court of the United State.
On December 9, the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) released a statement commending the passage of the Act. John Kostyack, Executive Director of the NWC, said: “We thank our whistleblower advocates in Congress for drafting and passing this bipartisan bill in defense of whistleblowers and in support of antitrust enforcement. Creating safe, legal avenues for whistleblowers to report instances of antitrust fraud and crime is critical. Reprisal is a serious threat to whistleblowers and to our collective fight against corruption; no whistleblower should suffer retaliation for coming forward in service of the public interest.”