ExxonMobil Corp. XOM was ordered last week by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to promptly reinstate two employees and pay them more than $800,000 in back pay, interest and compensatory damages.
What Happened: Upon suspicion that the employees had leaked material to The Wall Street Journal, Exxon illegally fired them, according to a federal whistleblower investigation, Insider reported this week.
The Journal reported the oil and gas firm may have exaggerated production forecasts and the stated value of oil and gas wells in the Texas Permian Basin in September 2020.
According to the article in question, Exxon may have been off base with its prediction that drilling speed would significantly improve over the next five years.
Exxon fired two computational scientists who expressed concerns about the company’s use of the assumptions in late 2020, according to OSHA’s inquiry.
Exxon said it fired one of the scientists for improper handling of confidential corporate data and the second for displaying a “negative attitude,” looking for alternative employment and losing management’s trust.
OSHA later learned that Exxon knew that one of the scientists was a relative of a source quoted in the Wall Street Journal article and had access to the leaked information.
Why It Matters: The communication with The Journal, which was relating to alleged corporate violations according to OSHA, was found to be protected activity under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Both scientists were not identified as the article’s sources.
“ExxonMobil’s actions are unacceptable. The integrity of the U.S. financial system relies on companies to report their financial condition and assets accurately,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker.
“Whistleblower protection is integral to ensuring that financial disclosure laws work. As was the case in this instance, OSHA will aggressively protect the rights of employees who raise concerns related to financial improprieties or potential fraud against shareholders.”
Image and article originally from www.benzinga.com. Read the original article here.