Sean McKessy, the director of the SEC’s whistleblower office, has indicated that the agency is on the hunt for retaliation against employees who report improper conduct to the SEC and plans to step up enforcement actions against employers who violate the statute.

The agency’s enforcement attorneys have reportedly received training and are expected to keep an eye out for potential instances of retaliation while investigating fraud cases. The agency also plans to crack down on employers who force employees to sign documentation restricting employees from reporting directly to the SEC.

On October 27, 2014 members of the U.S. House financial services and oversight committee also urged the SEC to take legal action against employers who use confidentiality agreements to subvert whistleblower rules.

The first settlement with the SEC for such violations was this year and reported as $2.2 million for a single claim.

PLANNING TIP

Employers should review their policies, severance agreements, confidentiality agreements and employment agreements to ensure that none of the verbiage in the documents can be construed to discourage reporting of violations to external regulators, such as the SEC.