Recently, U.S. senators unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that increases protections for whistleblowers exposing antitrust criminal behaviour. The Criminal Antirust Anti-retaliation Act (CAARA) focuses on protecting third-party whistleblowers who provide information regarding price-fixing violations to the Department of Justice, and is based on recommendations from the Government Accountability Office’s 2011 report. The 2011 report examined the negative impacts of antitrust violations, and found that increased protections to whistleblowers were required in order to encourage the reporting of these violations.
Charles Grassley (a Republican representing Iowa) and Patrick Leahey (a Democrat representing Vermont) penned the bill. They are also the senators responsible for the whistleblower-related sections in 2002’s Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and the new bill is based on many of the same provisions, and aims specifically to protect innocent third parties who report violations to competition and fair trade laws. Whistleblowers who were themselves involved in criminal antitrust activity have long been protected by US federal law, but CAARA extends these same protections to third-party employees exposing these activities. The bill is bolstered by the establishment of measures to prevent retaliation against employees who blow the whistle. While current corporate legislation aims to encourage reporting, it does little to combat any retaliation whistleblowers may come up against following their report. CAARA increases enforcement measures against reprisal, and provides official channels via the Department of Labor to allow for the reinstatement and compensation of employees who have been terminated as a result of whistleblowing. Furthermore, it allows whistleblowers to file a suit with the Department of Justice if the Department of Labor has not taken action within 180 days to ensure compliance and increase accountability. The bill provides benefits to whistleblowers such as back pay (with interest) and assistance with any litigation costs incurred as a result of the claim.
It is encouraging that CAARA is a bipartisan bill and was unanimously approved by senate, as this shows an increased appreciation for the power of whistleblowers in the U.S., and underlines the fact that protecting them is not an issues that should be obstructed by political affiliations. Especially with regards to antitrust, information provided by third parties is vital in ensuring the stability of the country’s markets and the safety of consumers.
The Department of Justice has a responsibility to protect consumers from this type of criminal activity, and as such, needs any information it can in order to crack down on antitrust violations in a timely manner. Legislation such as CAARA is crucial in this effort, as it not only encourages the exposure of this information, but ensures that those who provide it will be safe from reprisal. Not only will this bill further promote a whistleblower culture, but it will also undoubtedly increase accountability among corporations that will help to curb price-fixing and related allegations and ensure the health of the country’s economy as a whole.
See a full copy of the bill here.