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General Counsel Face New Challenges If New Bill Passes
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The House of Representatives must consider a bill that has been passed unanimously by the Senate that expands protections for whisteblowers.

Summary: The House of Representatives must consider a bill that has been passed unanimously by the Senate that expands protections for whistleblowers.

According to, the Senate has passed a bill that may make things difficult for some general counsel. If the law is enacted, it will expand protection for third-party whistleblowers who report criminal antitrust actions to the Department of Justice.


The law would mean that companies would have additional threats to worry about as they decided whether to disclose antitrust activity and seek leniency. Under the current Department of Justice Guidelines, the first company that reports an antitrust conspiracy may receive immunity from criminal prosecution. However, if it is reported by someone else, chances of immunity disappear.

If a whistleblower reports the activity before the company does, no leniency will be available. If the proposed bill is enacted, the company may not retaliate against the whistleblower. The whistleblower could be an agent, contractor, or employee.

Qualcomm is currently facing two antitrust investigations.

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On July 22, the Senate unanimously passed the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act of 2015. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the bill.

Read about the practice of antitrust law here.

In a statement, Grassley commented, “Violators of antitrust laws put businesses and our economic wellbeing at risk, so whistleblowers who call attention to violators should be praised, not punished…Unfortunately, these folks often face retribution at work for their efforts to correct misconduct,” he added. “The [bill] protects these individuals from workplace retaliation and abuse [and] may also serve as a deterrent of future misconduct.”

The NCAA must pay $46 million in an antitrust case.

In the last Congress, the Senate passed similar legislation, but the House did not act on it. The current measure will go to the House for consideration. According to the National Law Review, the bill was also introduced in 2012 and 2013.

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Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler posted about the possible impact on general counsel on its Antitrust Law Blog on August 4. The post said that the measure “may present some hurdles for in-house counsel, as in-house counsel may need to consider the possibility that a whistleblower may directly escalate a report of potential wrongdoing to DOJ before the company has a chance to self-report…Corporations already face a short timeframe for determining whether to apply for leniency under current legislation,” the post explained, “and they may be forced to make even quicker decisions if this act is passed.”


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