In recent months, individuals from across industries and spanning the globe have come forward to report workplace misconduct. Their stories have laid bare a culture of complicity at worst and apathy at best – and certainly not limited to the entertainment industry. Indeed, retaliation has been the ugly not-so-secret secret of the global workplace for a long time and its incidence has been on a dramatic upward trajectory.

According to the most recent National Business Ethics Survey, the benchmark study of workplace ethics compiled by the Ethics Resource Center, the number of US workers who faced retaliation after reporting misconduct rose from 12 percent in 2007 to 21 percent in 2017. Worse, according to data compiled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2016, retaliation-based discrimination charges have increased by 58 percent over the last decade.

While the mainstream conversation about wrongdoing has put bad actors on notice, when it comes to the serial retaliation at play in the financial services industry, nothing says ‘shape up’ like a government enforcer empowered by statute and armed to the gills. Such is the case with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which was empowered with new authority under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to take on employers who retaliate against whistleblowers.

Make no mistake: the SEC is using that authority.

Apr-Jun 2018 Issue

Labaton Sucharow