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JPMorgan Hit with Whistleblower Damages

By Ed Stone
February 1, 2017
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The U.S. Labor Department has ordered JPMorgan Chase (JPMorgan) to pay damages and more to a whistleblower who was fired after questioning the bank’s practices. According to a letter from the Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) division, JPMorgan violated whistleblower protection provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).

 

The case involved Johnny Burris, who was a broker at one of the bank’s Arizona branches. Burris refused to sell riskier, high-commission investments to his clients, most of whom were elderly. JPMorgan fired Burris, and his manager later put client complaints on Burris’s public BrokerCheck record. That caused him reputational harm and likely blacklisted him, according to the investigation.

 

JPMorgan was ordered to cover his legal expenses and to pay Burris back wages and damages for emotional distress. In addition, JPMorgan must try to clear the client complaints from Burris’s BrokerCheck record, and it must post a notice to inform its employees about the details of the case.

 

The decision supported JPMorgan’s right to fire Burris. But the Labor Department investigator revealed that, in some cases, the offenses JPMorgan cited in firing the whistleblower were based on questionable evidence and normally wouldn’t be reason enough to terminate an employee. The investigator added that JPMorgan didn’t follow its own progressive disciplinary policy, going outside of normal disciplinary procedures to fire Burris.

 

A spokesperson for JPMorgan, Patricia Wexler, said the bank would appeal the findings, noting that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) had ruled against Burris’s complaint before an arbitration panel.

Ed Stone is the senior finance editor at IMA. You can reach him at estone@imanet.org.
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