Houston-based global technology and engineering firm KBR Inc.agreed to pay a $130,000 penalty to settle SEC charges of violating whistleblower protection Rule 21F-17 under the Dodd-Frank Act which prohibits confidentiality agreements that discourage protected whistleblowing activity. It is the SEC’s first enforcement action against a company for using improperly restrictive language in confidentiality agreements with the potential to stifle the whistleblowing process. At issue was KBR’s requirement that witnesses in certain internal investigations sign confidentiality statements with language warning that they could face discipline and even be fired if they discussed the matters with outside parties without the prior approval of KBR’s legal department. As part of the settlement, KBR amended its confidentiality statement by adding language making clear that employees are free to report possible violations to the SEC and other federal agencies without KBR approval or fear of retaliation. Whistleblower Insider
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