By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) on Friday won the dismissal of a U.S. whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former vice president who claimed the bank ignored red flags about a client’s potential fraud, even after authorities exposed the massive Ponzi scheme operated by longtime JPMorgan client Bernard Madoff.
U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet in New York granted the bank’s motion to throw out the complaint, finding that Jennifer Sharkey had failed to demonstrate that her termination in August 2009 was in retaliation for speaking out.
Instead, he said, JPMorgan had shown there were legitimate performance-related reasons to fire her at the time.
Sharkey’s lawyer, Lawrence Pearson, said she would appeal. JPMorgan, which has previously denied her allegations, did not respond to a request for comment.
The decision marks the second time Sweet has dismissed Sharkey’s lawsuit. In December 2013, Sweet ruled that Sharkey had not met the necessary standard for whistleblower protection under the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
In an unrelated case in 2014, however, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals imposed a lower bar for whistleblower protection under Sarbanes-Oxley. The court then reversed Sweet’s decision, ordering him to reconsider whether Sharkey’s case should be allowed to proceed under the newer, more lenient standard.
Sweet said on Friday that Sharkey's lawsuit should be dismissed even using the less stringent standard.
Sharkey claimed bank executives ignored concerns she began voicing in January 2009 about whether an Israeli client was engaging in fraud and money laundering involving Colombia, just weeks after Madoff's multibillion-dollar scheme became exposed. The client is not identified in court papers.
Madoff was a client of JPMorgan for more than 20 years, sending deposits and transfers from his investors totaling about $150 billion through the bank.
In January 2014, JPMorgan agreed to pay $2.6 billion to the U.S. government and Madoff victims to settle allegations it failed to alert authorities to its suspicions of fraud at Madoff's firm.
The case is Sharkey v. JPMorgan Chase & Co et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 10-3824.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)