The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently announced that casino-gaming company International Game Technology PLC (NYSE: IGT) has agreed to pay a half-million dollar penalty for firing an employee with several years of positive performance reviews because he reported to senior management and the SEC that the company’s financial statements might be distorted.
The agency found that the employee was removed from significant work assignments within weeks of raising concerns about the company’s cost accounting model, in what is the SEC’s second whistleblower retaliation case since the Dodd-Frank Act authorized it to bring such charges. The employee was terminated roughly three months later.
According to the report, IGT conducted an internal investigation into the allegations made by the whistleblower, who did not oversee the company’s accounting functions, and determined its reported financial statements contained no misstatements.
Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, the company agreed to pay the $500,000 penalty.
Andrew J. Ceresney, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, commented:
Strong enforcement of the anti-retaliation protections is critical to the success of the SEC’s whistleblower program. This whistleblower noticed something that he felt might lead to inaccurate financial reporting and law violations, and he was wrongfully targeted for doing the right thing and reporting it.
Jane A. Norberg, chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, added:
Bringing retaliation cases, including this first stand-alone retaliation case, illustrates the high priority we place on ensuring a safe environment for whistleblowers. We will continue to exercise our anti-retaliation authority when companies take reprisals for whistleblowing efforts.
Shares of IGT closed Thursday at $24.83, with a consensus analyst price target of $26.33 and a 52-week trading range of $12.48 to $24.95.