George Fort lost his $335,000-per-year job as chief financial officer at Tennessee Commerce Bank soon after he told the audit committee that the bank was violating securities laws. On March 7, 2008--the day after he passed on his concerns to federal and state regulators--the bank put him on administrative leave. Two months later it fired him.
Fort filed a claim with the Department of Labor (DOL), contending Tennessee Commerce discharged him in retaliation for raising questions about possible insider trading, weak internal controls and other alleged violations of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX). The law protects SOX whistleblowers from retaliation.
OSHA under attack
Whistleblower advocates view the case as a serious attack on OSHA's powers because the bank contends that federal judges can't enforce SOX preliminary reinstatement orders.
"This issue of first impression in this court has been addressed only once in a published court of appeals decision, Bechtel v. Competitive Techs, Inc., a [2006 2nd Circuit] case in which the three judges had three different takes on the issue," observed the panel, which ordered expedited briefings on the bank's appeal of the preliminary injunction.