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FCPA whistleblower: Former Bio-Rad GC awarded $10 million for retaliatory firing

A federal jury in San Francisco took just three hours Monday to decide that Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc. retaliated against former general counsel Sanford “Sandy” Wadler for reporting FCPA violations.

The jury awarded Wadler $2.9 million in back pay and stock compensation and $5 million for punitive damages. His lawyers at Kerr & Wagstaffe said the back pay damages will be doubled, resulting in a total award of $10.8 million.

He was fired by the California-based life science company in June 2013.

In November 2014, Bio-Rad paid $55 million to settle FCPA offenses. The DOJ and SEC alleged that subsidiaries made improper payments to foreign officials in Russia, Vietnam, and Thailand to win business.

Wadler alleged he was fired for reporting potential FCPA violations. He testified that he found documents showing the company was delivering free products to distributors in China.

According to the Reporter,

Jurors found that Wadler’s February 2013 report to the audit committee of the company’s board about his suspicions was protected whistleblower activity under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The jury also found that his whistleblowing activities were a significant reason the company fired him in June of that year.

Metadata showed that an unfavorable performance review of Wadler was created in July 2013, a month after his termination.

The company claimed at trial he was hostile and erratic and didn’t understand how Bio-Rad did business in China.

A review Wadler received in December 2012 was mostly positive.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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4 Comments

  1. Still no FCPA whistleblower award from the SEC, as far as I can tell.

  2. Thanks Mr. Cassin for your reply. I understand why the SEC will keep this on the DL, but I think there will have to be some visibility so potential whistleblowers can see that the program is actually delivering and that the risks taken may be worthwhile.

  3. I have been following this case and read all seven episodes reported by THE REPORTER. I do agree that ex-GC of Bio-Rod was retaliated. But there were many mishaps I personally found. Mr. Wadler could have acted very early rather than waited for three years to file his suit. Mr. Wadler did not know how those accounting entries where bribes were paid in China, Vietnam, Thailand etc. because he admitted that he was not an accountant. He could have done some leg work or boots on the ground to substantiate instead of relying Audit committees even on the wisdom of the attorney who was supposed to be on FCPA matter, in particular over dealings with China.
    All in all, this is one of many interesting Whistle blower cases I come across. This clearly demonstrates the Corporate (mis) behavior which was not only brash but unethical, Unethical in the sense there were no internal investigations conducted as to why Mr. Wadler was blowing his whistle. But lots of moneys were spent on outside counsels. In one episode, the FCPA expert counsel did testify that he did not do his homework.


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