Jordan A. Thomas marvels at Halliburton whistleblower who stood up to the oil giant
Tony Menendez had no legal training, but he decided to represent himself in his appeal. For the next few years, he devoted thousands of hours of his time filing briefs, meeting deadlines, countering Halliburton's team of white-shoe lawyers.
Halliburton threw everything at Menendez. It argued that since the SEC hadn't brought any enforcement action, his complaint about the accounting was unfounded. (As a matter of law, that's not entirely relevant. Whistleblowers can be victims of retaliation even if they are ultimately proved wrong as long as they have a "reasonable" belief that the company was doing something wrong, Jordan Thomas said.)
The appeals process went on for three years. In September 2011, the administrative law appeals panel ruled. It overturned the original trial judge. After five years, Menendez had his first victory. But it wasn't over. Halliburton appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. There were more legal filings, more hours of work, more money spent. Finally, in November of last year, he prevailed. The appeals panel ruled that he indeed had been retaliated against for blowing the whistle, just as he had argued all along.
To say that the outcome stunned experts is something of an understatement. "Accountant beats Halliburton!'' said Thomas, the attorney and expert on whistleblower law. "The government tries to beat Halliburton and loses."