Protecting Whistleblower Protections in the Dodd-Frank Act

In 2008, the United States fell into its worst economic recession in over seventy years. In response, Congress enacted the near-comprehensive Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Section 922 of Dodd–Frank, in particular, includes specific provisions designed to incentivize and protect corporate whistleblowers. These provisions demonstrated Congress’s belief that a comprehensive and robust whistleblower protection scheme was essential to preventing many of the abuses that caused the financial crisis. Unfortunately, this section’s inconsistent language has produced conflicting decisions within the federal judiciary. In accordance with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”)’s own reading of Section 922, several district courts have held that individuals engaging in “whistleblower activities” are entitled to Dodd–Frank’s antiretaliation protections, irrespective of whether these individuals report directly to the SEC or report through internal channels in their own companies. In contrast, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has limited Dodd–Frank’s whistleblowing protections to individuals who report directly to the SEC. This Note contends that remedial legislation like Dodd–Frank should be broadly interpreted to further its purpose, that a broad interpretation of Section 922 is consistent with the text, structure, and legislative history of Dodd–Frank, and that courts unable to resolve the apparent conflict in this section should defer to the SEC’s administrative expertise and interpretation.