SEC Cracks Down On Confidentiality Agreements As Violating Whistleblower Rights And Protections

On April 1, 2015, the SEC announced its first filed, and settled, enforcement action against a company for using improperly restrictive language in confidentiality agreements as a method to stifle or retaliate against whistleblowers. 

In recent months, the SEC has been issuing requests to companies for copies of confidentiality agreements, non-disclosure agreements, employment agreements, severance agreements and settlement agreements entered into with employees and former employees of the companies.  The initiative specifically requests copies of documents since the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”) and, in particular, the provisions of the Dodd Frank-Act which grant awards and protections for whistleblowers. 

In addition, the SEC has been asking for copies of company human resource policies, employee memos, training guides and any and all documents that discuss “whistleblowers” either directly or indirectly.  According to a Wall Street Journal article on the subject, the SEC believes that corporations are retaliating against potential