97% of Corporate Fraud Whistleblower Cases Dismissed by Federal Government

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According to the most recently available statistics, 97% of Sarbanes-Oxley corporate fraud whistleblower cases are dismissed with little or no investigation by the federal government.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, enacted by Congress in response to the high-profile securities and accounting scandals at companies like Enron and WorldCom, specifically includes a whistleblower provision to protect employees who suffer discrimination for reporting many different types of accounting and securities violations. Congress gave the responsibility of conducting the first phase of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) whistleblower investigations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) a division of the Department of Labor. The statistics are based on data that is current only up to August of 2004, but historically since OSHA began investigating these cases, dismissals have been above 90% (OSHA has not responded to repeated Freedom of Information Act requests for more current information.)

During this period OSHA completed investigations on 161 cases; of these only 8 were found to have merit. Sixty-two cases were either dropped or settled before the OSHA investigations were complete.

In August, OSHA summarily dismissed a case that cited severe data security violations at one of the largest credit card processors in the US. This dismissal came during the time when a security breach at another processor, Cardsystems, Inc. had been front page news for weeks.

“I couldn't believe OSHA did not make the connection between what happened at Cardsystems and what I reported in my complaint, which was filed in April, two months before the Cardsystems break-in occurred. They didn't even make one phone call to the company to check to see if any of my complaint was valid. They did absolutely nothing, they didn't even follow their own investigation guidelines,” said Nell Walton, who filed the complaint with OSHA (DOL Claim No. 4-1760-05-015).

Because of this high dismissal rate, Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblowers usually have no choice but to appeal OSHA's decision with the DOL's Office of Administrative Law Judges. If a decision is not issued within 180 days, the complaint may moved to federal court. Filing these appeals can be cost prohibitive to many whistleblowers. Ms. Walton has appealed her complaint and it is currently before a ALJ in Washington, D.C.

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Nell Walton
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