In Yang v. Navigators Group, Inc., the Southern District of New York granted summary judgment for the defendant on a dual pronged complaint claiming unlawful retaliation under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act. While the Court analyzed the SOX claims in detail, it stated that while the elements of a whistleblower retaliation claim brought under the Dodd-Frank Act are slightly different from a whistleblower retaliation claim brought under SOX, the facts of this case required the Court to reach the same result on both claims.
Here the plaintiff failed to report any alleged violations concerning defendant’s investment risk models to the SEC or internally to defendant’s management, and therefore the Dodd-Frank claims failed. Among other things, the Court noted that with the exception of the plaintiff’s own self-serving testimony, there is not a single piece of evidence that corroborates her allegation that she complained to her superiors about misrepresentations of defendant’s “market risk without proper disclosure,” which was “illegal and constituted shareholder fraud.”
According to the Court, the plaintiff failed to show that a rational fact finder could determine that her complaint concerning defendant’s SEC proxy statements contributed, at least in part, to her termination. Thus, Plaintiff cannot establish another element of her second Dodd-Frank claim – that she was retaliated against for reporting the alleged violation. The Court stated the evidence presented by the defendant made clear that the plaintiff was fired for her performance following a presentation to the defendant’s senior executive team. One executive testified that “the meeting was an absolute disaster,” and that there was consensus among the senior executive team that the plaintiff should be fired. The defendant’s CEO testified to the same.
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