UBS fired Trevor Murray, a strategist at UBS in New York, after he reported to his supervisor that he felt pressured to perpetuate a fraud upon shareholders. Murray then sued UBS under the whistleblower protection provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), which prohibits any publicly traded company from taking action against an employee because of lawful whistleblowing.
The case went to trial, and a jury found that Murray’s legally protected activity was a contributing factor to his termination; it awarded him approximately $900,000 in damages. UBS appealed to the Second Circuit, which reversed the judgment in Murray’s favor and held that, to prevail on a SOX claim, an employee must show both that their whistleblowing activity was a “contributing factor” to the adverse employment action and that the employer acted with “retaliatory intent.”
Murray then filed a petition for Supreme Court review, and Public Citizen filed a brief as amicus curiae in support of the petition. The brief argued that Congress’s explicit adoption of a “contributing factor” framework for SOX retaliation claims is an express repudiation of the intent requirement that the Second Circuit read into the statute. After the Supreme Court granted the petition, we filed a brief at the merits stage of the case, arguing that the Second Circuit had misinterpreted the statute.