Fiery U.S. Watchdog has “A-Team” Geared Up for Rio Tinto Stoush

The Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times
October 21, 2017

Jordan A. Thomas remarks on SEC’s complaint against Anglo-Australian mining company, Rio Tinto

In an article discussing the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing a complaint against Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto, partner and Chair of the Firm’s Whistleblower Representation Practice Jordan A. Thomas shared his perspective on the case.

A whistleblower—who, it is alleged, alerted the board to concerns about the value of Rio Tinto’s Mozambique assets—is central to the Rio story, though the SEC’s complaint does not state whether the whistleblower is working with the regulator.

Thomas describes the SEC’s “A-team of investigators and trial attorneys” assigned to the case, which is under close scrutiny due to the “inadequate” whistleblower laws in Australia. Regarding the Whistleblower Program in the U.S., Thomas said, it has been an absolute “game-changer” for its pursuit of corporate misconduct. Previously, he says, the SEC were like beat cops “without a 9-11 system.” “Now we have people who were in the room with the senior people, we have recordings of bad guys talking about the illegal scheme they are involved with, we have key documents.” He added, “The SEC is now much more aggressive when it comes to cases against big companies—and prepared to name and go after individuals at the top.”

Nonetheless, Thomas has argued that the SEC’s recent experiences with whistleblowers and bounties holds great relevance for Australia, where a strengthened corporate whistleblower protection regime—including, potentially, whistleblower bounties—is being considered by a taskforce commissioned by the Turnbull government.