In Hill v. Komatsu America Corp., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 116611 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 26, 2015), the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed a SOX retaliation claim on summary judgment on several grounds. The plaintiff had raised concern to the defendant’s CEO that the defendant’s repair and maintenance program offered to distributors and end users of the defendant’s products was insufficiently funded by reserves. A month or so later, the plaintiff was terminated after an unrelated investigation regarding improper expense reporting and taking his wife on company business without approval. The court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss on four separate grounds.
First, the court found that a concern that the repair and maintenance reserve was too low was not the same as suggesting securities fraud, and the plaintiff had never suggested a material misrepresentation was made to shareholders. Second, the defendant did not know that the plaintiff was engaged in protected activity because he had not reported that anything illegal was taking place. Third, the plaintiff had not shown that his expression of concern was a contributing factor in his termination. Finally, even if the plaintiff had established a prima facie case of retaliation, the summary judgment record showed that he would have been terminated in the absence of protected activity due to his violations of the defendant’s travel and expense policy.