Ninth Circuit Joins Second Circuit in Adopting Broad Definition of “Whistleblower” Under The Dodd-Frank Act

March 16, 2017

A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently ruled in Somers v. Digital Realty Trust Inc. that the Dodd-Frank Act’s definition of “whistleblower” includes not only those who disclose information to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), but also employees who report alleged unlawful activity internally within their companies.

The Ninth Circuit is the latest court of appeals to weigh in on this issue, siding with the Second Circuit’s broader definition of “whistleblower” over the narrower interpretation the Fifth Circuit adopted. The Ninth Circuit’s Somers decision is significant in that it (1) reflects the increasingly important role whistleblowers play in white collar enforcement; (2) highlights the importance to companies of developing robust internal procedures regarding whistleblowers; and (3) may increase the likelihood of Supreme Court review of what constitutes a “whistleblower” under the Dodd-Frank Act.

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