U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday to extend whistleblower protection for employees who provide information to the Department of Justice related to criminal antitrust violations.
The Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act, which the Senators also introduced last Congress, seeks to protect whistleblowers in criminal antitrust cases. It would prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee who provides information to the Department of Justice regarding conduct that violates the criminal antitrust laws, and is based on recommendations from a Government Accountability Office report released July 2011. The bill allows an employee who believes they are the victim of retaliation to file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, and provides for that employee to be reinstated to their former status if the Secretary finds in their favor. Senators Leahy and Grassley authored similar whistleblower statutes as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, and the antitrust measure introduced today is modeled in part after those existing protections.
"Congress should encourage employees with information about criminal antitrust activity, such as price fixing, to report that information by offering meaningful protection to those who blow the whistle rather than leaving them vulnerable to reprisals," Leahy said in a statement, adding that "When the antitrust laws are enforced and competition is preserved, consumers win through greater choices and lower prices. Our bipartisan bill will help to ensure that criminal violations of these laws do not go unreported."
"Too often whistleblowers who expose waste, fraud and abuse are treated like second class citizens. This legislation provides protection from retaliation for private sector employees who are willing to come forward with information about criminal antitrust violations," Grassley said. "It's a natural extension to similar legislation Senator Leahy and I got included in the Sarbanes-Oxley reform, and it can be a real deterrent to those who are thinking about committing fraud in the future."
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Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On Introduction of the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act
January 22, 2013
I am pleased to once again join with Senator Grassley and today introduce the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act. This legislation, which is identical to our legislation from last Congress, will provide important protections to employees who come forward and disclose to law enforcement price fixing and other criminal antitrust behavior that harm consumers. This legislation is a continuation of the long partnership that I have had with Senator Grassley on whistleblower issues.
Congress should encourage employees with information about criminal antitrust activity, such as price fixing, to report that information by offering meaningful protection to those who blow the whistle rather than leaving them vulnerable to reprisals. Throughout our history, whistleblowers have been instrumental in alerting the public, Congress, and law enforcement to wrongdoing in a variety of areas. These individuals take risks in stepping forward, and many times their actions result in important reforms and have even saved lives.
The legislation we are introducing today is based on recommendations from the Government Accountability Office, which interviewed key stakeholders in the antitrust community and found widespread support for anti-retaliatory protection in criminal antitrust cases. The provisions in this bill are modeled on the whistleblower protections that Senator Grassley and I authored as part of the Sarbanes Oxley Act, and are narrowly tailored to ensure that whistleblowers are not provided with an economic incentive to bring forth false claims.
The antitrust laws protect consumers and serve to promote our free enterprise system. When the antitrust laws are enforced and competition is preserved, consumers win through greater choices and lower prices. Our bipartisan bill will help to ensure that criminal violations of these laws do not go unreported. I urge the Senate to act quickly to pass this important legislation. I ask unanimous consent that the full bill text be inserted in the Record.