By Jody Coultas, J.D.
In a voice vote today, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act of 2017 (S. 807) a bill sponsored by panel Chairman Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would heighten protections for whistleblowers who report antitrust violations. "Since we’re willing to incentivize folks to report their own bad behavior, then we ought to protect whistleblowers who report on the bad behavior of others," said Senator Grassley. Similar legislation passed the Senate in each of the last two Congresses.
In 2004, Congress passed the Antitrust Criminal Penalty Enhancement and Reform Act, which encouraged self-reporting of criminal antitrust activity. In 2011, the Government Accountability Office recommended that Congress add a civil remedy for antitrust whistleblowers who have been subjected to retaliation.
Senators Grassley and Leahy sponsored the "Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act" (S.1599) in the last Congress. While the Senate unanimously passed the bill, it was not taken up by the House. In the 113th Congress, the Senate also unanimously passed a similar version of the legislation (S. 42) but the bill was not taken up by the House.
The current version of the Act is aimed at protecting whistleblowers in criminal antitrust cases by prohibiting employers from retaliating against an employee who provides information to the Justice Department regarding conduct that violates the criminal antitrust laws, according to its sponsors. It would allow an employee who believes he or she is the victim of retaliation to file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor, and provides for that employee to be reinstated to their former status if the Secretary finds in their favor.
"Over the years we’ve worked with members, stakeholders, and the Department of Justice to iron out concerns and improve the bill. This is a narrowly focused bill that will strengthen the enforcement of our criminal antitrust laws," said Senator Grassley.
"Whistleblowers play an essential role in alerting the public, Congress, and law enforcement agencies to wrongdoing that directly harms consumers," Leahy said.
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