The Ninth Circuit took a narrow reading of the whistleblower protections provided under Sarbanes-Oxley, and thereby eliminated the applicability of any whistleblower protection. The would-be whistleblowers were two internal auditors at Boeing. Based on the Court’s description:
“In January 2007, plaintiffs Matthew Neumann and Nicholas Tides began working as auditors in Boeing’s IT Sarbanes-Oxley (“SOX”) Audit group. … It was charged with helping the company comply with SOX’s requirement that it annually assess the effectiveness of its internal controls and procedures for financial reporting.
Tides and Neumann claim that tensions were high in the IT SOX Audit group upon their arrival in January 2007 because management feared that Deloitte & Touche might declare a “material weakness” in the company’s internal controls. They allege that managers pressured IT SOX auditors to rate Boeing’s internal controls as “effective” and fostered a generally hostile work environment. Beginning in February 2007, Tides and Neumann began separately expressing concerns about this perceived pressure and several deficiencies in Boeing’s auditing practices that they viewed as potential violations of SOX.”
Both employees spoke to a newspaper reporter regarding their concerns. The reporter included the employees’ information in an article entitled “Computer security faults put Boeing at risk”. The Appellate Court described Boeing’s conduct regarding the employees as follows:
“At some point prior to the publication of the Post-Intelligencer article, Boeing caught on that several employees were likely releasing company information to the media. As a result, it authorized an investigation that included the monitoring of both Tides’ and Neumann’s work computers and email accounts. The investigation revealed that the two auditors were communicating with James without permission. Two months after the publication of the Post-Intelligencer article, Tides and Neumann were interviewed separately by HR investigators about their communications with James