Wrongful Termination Case 2: Federal Investigator Prevented from Whistle-Blowing
A former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Attorney named Gary Aguirre, filed his lawsuit for “wrongful termination" against the SEC in 2007, after the SEC fired the lawyer for “insubordination," as their just cause.
The lawsuit was filed by Atty. Gary Aguirre at the Merit Systems Protection Board, which is a quasi-judicial agency in-charge of sitting in judgment over a federal employee’s individual appeal for protection of rights.
The federal merit system is all about providing protection to federal employees against government employments affected by partisan politics and against abuses by any federal agency management.
Atty. Aguirre claimed he was fired because he was being barred from investigating an insider-trading case, which the lawyer deemed as suspicious. After the SEC’s firing of Atty. Aguirre in 2007, it also closed the case being investigated by the latter without taking any action against the company being investigated.
Despite his termination, Atty. Aguirre continued with his investigation of the case and was able to build enough evidence against the insider-traders, with the intention of fully pursuing the case. It may be worth mentioning that Senate inquiries about the inside-trading were also being conducted.
However, the SEC pre-empted Atty. Aguirre’s independent actions when the SEC recently filed an insider-trading lawsuit against the same persons being investigated by the lawyer. The SEC’s investigations resulted in a settlement of the insider-trading case, wherein the accused agreed to pay $18 million in profits and another $10 million in penalties.
Thereafter, the SEC likewise entered into a settlement agreement with Atty. Aguirre, after the judge en banc at the Merits Systems Protection Board ordered the SEC to pay the lawyer $ 755,000. According to the Merit Board, the amount represented the lawyer's pay for four years and 10 months, counted from the date of his termination. In addition, Atty. Aguirre was also paid reimbursement of attorney’s fees.
The SEC did not make any formal acknowledgment of any wrongdoing while Atty. Aguirre on the other hand, agreed to drop two other lawsuits he filed against the SEC. On his part, Atty. Aguirre sees the settlement only as his remuneration for his continued work in the insider-trading case he laboriously worked on even after he was fired by the SEC and not really a victory over wrongful termination.