In Tides v. Boeing, a federal district court in Seattle ruled that two employees who leaked documents to the media were not protected whistleblowers under the Sarbanes Oxley Act ("SOX"). While performing auditing tasks for Boeing, employees Nicholas Tides and Matthew Neumann concluded that Boeing's auditing culture was unethical and the work environment was hostile to those who sought change. After several complaints to Boeing, Tides and Newman provided information and documents to a Seattle newspaper reporter. When Boeing learned of the disclosure, it terminated both men. Tides and Neumann then sued for wrongful termination.
Tides and Neumann claimed that Boeing terminated their employment in retaliation for the media disclosure, in violation of the SOX whistleblower protection laws. However, the court found that SOX protects employees against retaliation only when they provide information to supervisors, a federal regulatory or law enforcement agency or a member of Congress or a congressional committee. The court held that "[c]ommunications with the media are not protected by SOX."
Tides and Neumann nevertheless argued that their internal complaints to management – which were covered by SOX – also led to their termination. The court rejected this theory as well, finding that Boeing would have terminated Tides and Neumann because of the media disclosure even if they had not made the internal complaints.