Rite Aid Obtains Summary Judgment in Insider Trading Employment Suit

On Monday, a Middle District of Pennsylvania judge ruled on a case arising from James Wickens’ employment with and firing from Rite Aid Hdqtrs. Corp. The plaintiff was employed as legal counsel for Rite Aid and asserted that the company fired him in retaliation after he reported federal securities law abuses. The plaintiff claimed his termination was in violation of Section 806(a) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).

The case reportedly dates back to November 2019 when the plaintiff filed suit in federal court after filing various administrative complaints alleging that he was terminated because of his age or in retaliation for voicing complaints about improper payroll deductions, sexual harassment, race discrimination, and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He also filed an insider trading SOX complaint that the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) investigated as to two former Rite Aid executives.

Rite Aid moved for summary judgment earlier this year, arguing, among other things, that it would have terminated Wickens in the absence of any protected activity as part of its reduction in force measures. The court granted the defendant’s motion based on its demonstration, by clear and convincing evidence, that it indeed undertook a reduction in force following the failed merger with Walgreens, ultimately eliminating over 80 positions and further, not replacing Wickens with another employee.

Though the plaintiff did not dispute that a workforce reduction occurred, he did contest that his termination was the result of that retrenchment. Over this argument, the court determined that the Wickens “failed to identify any record evidence beyond his own testimony and subjective beliefs in support of his position” that the firing was discriminatory and that he was replaced rather than his position eliminated.

The plaintiff is represented by Sidney L. Gold & Associates P.C. and Rite Aid by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP.