As highlighted here and here, in November 2016 JPMorgan (and related entities) resolved a $202.6 million DOJ and SEC Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action based on its alleged improper hiring and internship practices that the U.S. government has labeled bribery and corruption.
The DOJ action was resolved through a three year non-prosecution agreement involving JPMorgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Limited (“JPMorgan-APAC), a wholly subsidiary of JP Morgan, which involved a variety of requirements and undertakings imposed upon the company – as is typical in resolving FCPA enforcement actions.
As highlighted here, in late 2021 Shaquala Williams (a former employee of JPMorgan in New York city) filed a civil complaint in federal court (S.D.N.Y) against JPMorgan.
In summary fashion, the complaint alleged:
“Williams, a Black woman, is an attorney and financial crimes compliance professional with over a decade of experience. In June 2018, Williams joined JPMorgan in its Global Anti-Corruption Compliance (“GACC”) organization. During Williams’s tenure, she repeatedly tried to address material misconduct at the Bank that she reasonably believed broke the laws, regulations, and rules designed to prevent fraud against shareholders, to ensure that shareholders and the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) have an accurate picture of a company’s finances, and to avoid corruption. Williams raised concerns that the Bank’s conduct violated, inter alia, a non-prosecution agreement with the United States Department of Justice (the “DOJ”); an SEC Cease and Desist order; provisions of Federal law relating to fraud against shareholders; and SEC rules and regulations, including those mandating adequate internal controls to prevent and detect material misrepresentations and fraud and those requiring accurate and reasonably detailed books and records.
In response to Williams’s efforts to address her concerns about the Bank’s legal violations, her managers were dismissive and hostile toward her. Williams had no choice but to escalate her concerns to, inter alia, the Bank’s senior leaders and its internal whistleblower team. In addition to raising concerns about Compliance failures and other misconduct that she believed violated the law, Williams also complained about the retaliation she faced due to her protected activities. This only made matters worse for Williams. Instead of fixing the problems, JPMorgan further retaliated against Williams that culminated in the Bank’s decision to fire her in October 2019.
Plaintiff brings this action to remedy whistleblower retaliation for her protected activities under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”), 18 U.S.C. § 1514A.”
This follow-up post highlighted various thoughts about the whistleblower complaint.
In this recent motion for summary judgment, JPMorgan argues in summary fashion:
“Plaintiff Shaquala Williams was employed as a compliance professional in the Third Party Intermediary (“TPI”) group of JPMorgan Chase Bank, NA’s (“JPMorgan”) Global AntiCorruption Compliance (“GACC”) department from July 30, 2018 to November 15, 2019. Plaintiff’s employment was terminated based on chronic deficiencies in her performance and behavior, which were identified and documented throughout her employment by numerous managers and co-workers. Indeed, a more junior co-worker complained that Plaintiff’s unprofessional interactions left him “feeling humiliated,” was “causing him emotional and physical distress,” and “was verbally abusive to him,” which “was taking a psychological toll on him outside of work.” Plaintiff’s deficiencies were repeatedly documented and addressed with her, but she refused to acknowledge that she had any need to improve and therefore, not surprisingly, she did not improve.
The efforts to address Plaintiff’s performance and behavioral deficiencies culminated in a Written Warning delivered on October 24, 2019, which notified her that her employment could be terminated unless she demonstrated “immediate and sustained improvement.” By Plaintiff’s own admission, however, upon receiving the warning, she did not accept the feedback, she did nothing to change her performance or behavior, and she had no intention of doing so. When Plaintiff’s manager saw that Plaintiff had no intention of improving, and continued immediately after the warning to exhibit the same deficiencies that had just been addressed, the decision was made to terminate Plaintiff’s employment.
Plaintiff alleges that her employment was terminated in retaliation for protected complaints in violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX”). There is no dispute that Plaintiff complained about a wide variety of issues from the start of her employment and consistently thereafter. She complained about her managers, her performance review, lack of early dismissal before a holiday weekend, seating assignments, not being invited to meetings for managers with direct reports (of which Plaintiff had none), and a host of other issues. Because Plaintiff worked in anti-corruption compliance, and one of her responsibilities was specifically to propose changes or enhancements to the TPI program, some of her complaints involved compliance issues that had legal implications. Far from retaliating against Plaintiff, however, JPMorgan devoted an extraordinary amount of resources to considering, understanding, investigating, and responding to Plaintiff about any concerns she raised. Plaintiff had regular meetings and communications with management several levels above her, she was commended for raising issues, and when Plaintiff submitted more formal complaints, JPMorgan twice appointed investigators to review Plaintiff’s concerns – investigations that spanned months and involved interviews with dozens of witnesses. Nothing about Plaintiff’s complaints, however, excused her from the legitimate consequences of her performance and behavioral deficiencies, or gave Plaintiff license to act rude and unprofessional to coworkers, push her work onto others, or refuse to collaborate with key stakeholders.
Summary judgment should be granted to JPMorgan because: (1) this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s claims with respect to any alleged adverse actions prior to, or subsequent to, the termination of Plaintiff’s employment because those alleged adverse actions were not the subject of any timely administrative complaint; (2) there is no genuine issue of material fact sufficient to permit a finding that any alleged protected activity was a contributing factor in the termination of Plaintiff’s employment and, in any event, JPMorgan has demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that it would have taken the same adverse actions in the absence of any alleged protected activity; and (3) Plaintiff’s allegation of post-employment retaliation also fails because SOX does not cover post-employment actions and, in any event, there is no evidence of post-employment retaliation by JPMorgan. For all of these reasons, JPMorgan respectfully requests the Court grant summary judgment in its favor.”
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