President Obama’s Whistleblower Legacy

Washington D.C., Aug. 10, 2016 —The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that an Atlanta-based building products distributor is settling charges that it violated securities laws by using severance agreements that required outgoing employees to waive their rights to monetary recovery should they file a charge or complaint with the SEC or other federal agencies.

BlueLinx Holdings Inc. has agreed to pay a $265,000 penalty.

According to the SEC’s order, BlueLinx added the monetary recovery prohibition to all of its severance agreements in mid-2013, nearly two years after the SEC’s adoption of Rule 21F-17 that prohibits any action to impede someone from communicating with the SEC about possible securities law violations.  BlueLinx’s restrictive language forced employees leaving the company to waive possible whistleblower awards or risk losing their severance payments and other post-employment benefits.

Jane Norberg, Acting Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, stated, “Companies simply cannot undercut a key tenet of our whistleblower program by requiring employees to forego potential whistleblower awards in order to receive their severance payments.”