IL Whistleblower Law

Requires Refusal to Participate

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Bank VP Strikes Out

             In 2005 Darren Sardiga was fired from his position as a vice-president at Northern Trust’s Financial consulting group, and sued, alleging retaliatory discharge tort and also a violation of the Illinois Whistleblower Act (the “Act”).  Last week an Illinois appellate court ruled that Sardiga could not make a case under the Act.  Although he had (allegedly) expressed repeated complaints and concerns about the bank’s practices, he did not establish that he had refused to participate in these practices. Darren Sardiga v. The Northern Trust Company, __IllApp3rd__, No. 05 L 8856 (March 15, 2011).

             For example, he questioned whether he, a financial planner, who was not licensed to sell securities to customers, should be presenting them with investment sales literature.  He also questioned the presence of wealth strategy consultants, who make commissions on the sale of securities, during meetings between financial planners and their clients.  He complained that this might be a conflict of interest.  

             He also had complained about the bank’s contact management system, through which client names and information were distributed throughout the company database (unless a client requested otherwise).  Sardiga told his boss he thought it was wrong but continued using it, but did resort to special notes that tagged clients’ information for access in confidential files he created.

             Although Sardiga had argued that proof of an outright refusal was not required under the Act, and that repeated complaints were sufficient, the appeals court held that “refusal to participate” clause in the Act was unequivocal and meant exactly what it said. 

              Applying this rule of law, the court found no refusal to participate on his part. As close as he got to a refusal was his modification of the contact management system, but the court said there was no public policy implicated in the system at any rate.

3/25/2011