Litigation

The litigation attorneys at Houston Harbaugh, P.C., are accomplished business trial lawyers, providing comprehensive support in litigation across a broad spectrum of matters throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and other jurisdictions upon a special admission basis. Our clients are regional and national small, medium and large companies and individuals who seek well planned and aggressive, but cost effective litigation. We counsel, we budget, we have a deep bench, we act quickly when needed and we have experienced trial lawyers who know the courts and bench. We serve regularly as local counsel for some of the largest law firms in the country when they have matters in this region.

SCOTUS: Whistleblowers need not prove retaliatory intent under Sarbanes-Oxley Act

The U.S. Supreme Court recently held that proving an employer’s retaliatory intent is not required for whistleblowers seeking protection under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In Murray v. UBS Securities, LLC, 144 S. Ct. 445 (2024), the justices unanimously held that a potential whistleblower must “prove that his protected activity ‘was a contributing factor in the unfavorable personnel action alleged in the complaint,’ 49 U. S. C. § 42121(b)(2)(B)(i), but he is not required to make some further showing that his employer acted with ‘retaliatory intent.’”

This case arose from Trevor Murray’s employment as a research strategist at UBS, where he was responsible for reporting on the firm’s commercial mortgage-backed securities markets to current and future customers. While SEC regulations required Murray to certify that his reports were produced independently, Murray alleged that the firm pressured him to skew his reports in their favor. After complaining to his superiors, Murray was terminated by UBS in 2012.

Murray then filed a complaint with the Department of Labor alleging UBS violated the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and later filed an action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The jury entered a verdict for Murray, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated and remanded for a new trial.

The Second Circuit considered 18 U.S.C. § 1514A(a), the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s whistleblower-protection provision, which states that “no covered employer may ‘discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or in any other manner discriminate against an employee in the terms and conditions of employment because of’ protected whistleblowing activity.” UBS argued, and the Second Circuit agreed, that the word “discriminate” in § 1514A(a) imposes a “retaliatory intent” requirement on whistleblower plaintiffs.

On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding the “only intent that § 1514A requires is the intent to take some adverse employment action against the whistleblowing employee ‘because of’ his protected whistleblowing activity.”

Justice Sotomayor authored the unanimous majority opinion. Justice Alito filed a separate concurring opinion, joined by Justice Barrett.

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About Us

The litigation attorneys at Houston Harbaugh, P.C., are accomplished business trial lawyers, providing comprehensive support in litigation across a broad spectrum of matters throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and other jurisdictions upon a special admission basis. Our clients are regional and national small, medium and large companies and individuals who seek well planned and aggressive, but cost effective litigation. We counsel, we budget, we have a deep bench, we act quickly when needed and we have experienced trial lawyers who know the courts and bench. We serve regularly as local counsel for some of the largest law firms in the country when they have matters in this region.

Henry Sneath Pittsburgh Business Litigation Lawyer. Pittsburgh Strong.® DTSALaw® Complex Case Mediation and ADR

Henry M. Sneath - Practice Chair

Co-Chair of Houston Harbaugh’s Litigation Practice, and Chair of its Intellectual Property Practice, Henry Sneath is a trial attorney, mediator, arbitrator and Federal Court Approved Mediation Neutral and Special Master with extensive federal and state court trial experience in cases involving commercial disputes, breach of contract litigation, intellectual property matters, patent, trademark and copyright infringement, trade secret misappropriation, DTSA claims, cyber security and data breach prevention, mitigation and litigation, probate trusts and estates litigation, construction claims, eminent domain, professional negligence lawsuits, pharmaceutical, products liability and catastrophic injury litigation, insurance coverage, and insurance bad faith claims.

Sam Simon Houston harbaugh lawyer

Samuel H. Simon - Practice Chair

As co-chair of Houston Harbaugh’s Litigation Group, Sam focuses his practice on commercial/business litigation. Sam regularly represents clients in the construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, and wholesale/retail/ distribution industries, as well as individuals in matters such as:

  • Construction litigation
  • Environmental litigation
  • Breach of contract disputes
  • Oil and gas litigation
  • Negligence
  • Restrictive covenants (non-compete agreements)
  • Civil rights
  • Collections/creditors’ rights
  • Lease disputes