A federal jury in California awarded the former general counsel/executive vice president of Bio-Rad Laboratories nearly $11 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit he filed against the company.
Sanford Wadler sued California-based Bio-Rad, which produces life sciences and clinical diagnostic chemicals, in U.S. District Court for Northern California, claiming the company fired him in June 2013 in retaliation for blowing the whistle on potential Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations in China.
Mr. Wadler accused Bio-Rad of terminating his employment just before the company was to present its findings from an internal investigation into bribery in Russia, Thailand and Vietnam. According to The Recorder, Bio-Rad later agreed to a $55 million settlement with the U.S. Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which found that it had paid $7.5 million in those countries to generate about $35 million in profits.
The SEC said that Bio-Rad Laboratories had failed to detect and address the bribery scheme, but that it had “self-reported its misconduct and extensively cooperated during the investigation.” However, Mr. Wadler said that Bio-Rad obstructed his efforts to expose a similar bribery scheme in China.
According to The Recorder, the federal jury found that Mr. Wadler’s reporting of the bribery violations in China fit the definition of “protected activity” under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and were a major reason for his termination.
“Before the jury reached its verdict, the panel asked about a contentious issue related to the timing of Wadler’s most recent performance evaluation,” The Recorder explained. According to Mr. Wadler’s lawyer, metadata showed Mr. Wadler’s most recent evaluation was created a full month after Mr. Wadler’s June 2013 termination.
Lawyers for Bio-Rad also attempted to discredit Mr. Wadler’s behavior and performance, but the plaintiff’s counsel pointed to a lack of documentation about the alleged deficiencies and “repeatedly returned to the last review that Wadler received while on the job in December 2012, which was largely positive,” according to The Recorder.
After deliberating for three hours, the jury awarded Mr. Wadler $2.9 million in back pay, which the court doubled, and stocks and $5 million in punitive damages.
Source: The Recorder