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Jury Awards Former Bio-Rad Legal Counsel $8M in Whistleblower Case

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A jury in Northern California has found in favor of Bio-Rad's former general counsel Sanford Wadler in his whistleblower suit against the firm.

After a three-week trial in response to a suit filed last May in the US District Court, Northern District of California, a jury found that Wadler's raising concerns about Bio-Rad's alleged violations in China of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was protected activity under the law, and that this activity was a contributing factor in his being terminated.

The jury also found that Bio-Rad and CEO Norman Schwartz did not convincingly prove that Wadler would otherwise have been terminated if he had not engaged in the protected activity. The defense attempted to show that Wadler's erratic behavior led to his firing, but key evidence in the trial included a performance review written by Schwartz that was found to have been created after Wadler was fired but that was dated prior to his termination.

In all, the jury found firing Wadler to be retaliation that violated the Sarbanes Oxley as well as the Dodd-Frank Acts, and that his wrongful discharge caused Wadler harm. It awarded Wadler $2.96 million in damages for past economic loss, although that figure may rise as Dodd-Frank allows for doubling of back-pay damages in whistleblower suits. He was also awarded $5 million in punitive damages.

Bio-Rad previously self-reported misconduct to the US Securities and Exchange Commission — specifically violation of FCPA due to the company's subsidiaries having made improper payments to foreign officials in Russia, Vietnam, and Thailand in order to win business — and in 2014 the firm agreed to pay $55 million to settle the charges with SEC and the US Department of Justice.