After a lengthy legal battle which has ultimately cost her more than most can imagine, Disney whistleblower Sandy Kuba’s lawsuit against the House of Mouse, wherein she claimed that she was unfairly fired in retaliation for exposing the company’s supposed engagement in financial fraud, has officially ended in a settlement between the two parties.
Kuba’s showdown with Disney first began in 2013 when she, then employed with the company as an account, allegedly uncovered evidence that Disney had been artificially inflating their reported parks-and-resorts revenues.
According to her, Disney would record discounted gift card sales and complimentary guest promotions, such as a free game at one of their resorts’ numerous golf courses, as having been sold for full price.
Following her discovery, Kuba reportedly brought her concerns to Disney management, who in turn ignored her findings.
In light of this shutting out, Kuba would subsequently submit her findings to a senior executive, and though this time she was informed that she would be contacted by the company’s auditing team, this promise was ultimately never followed-up on.
As such, in 2017, Kuba ultimately raised the issue to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) via an official whistleblower complaint.
A month later, Disney let her go from her position. Believing this to have been done in response to the legal troubles she had caused them, Kuba officially filed her whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against Disney with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration in October 2017.
On September 5th, 2022, Judge John Antoon II of the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida (Orlando) brought Kuba’s case to an end by offering her a less-than-clear cut denial of her Motion for a Summary Judgement.
As per a breakdown by independent reporter Francine McKenna, Judge Antoon ruled that Disney could be found by a jury to have violated the Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower, Dodd-Frank Whistleblower, and the Florida Private Whistleblower Acts.
Conversely, the judge outright dismissed Kuba’s claims that the company had similarly run up against the Equal Pay and California False Claims Acts.
Interestingly, as noted by McKenna, Judge Antoon found in his judgement that in regard to her California False Claims Act violation allegation, “Kuba offers no authority for or explication of this novel legal argument, which the Court therefore rejects.”
Though this judgement ultimately left room for a further fight, Kuba announced on September 23rd that she and her legal team had instead “settled with Disney today.”
“Although I would have liked to continue, there was always a risk,” she wrote via LinkedIn, sharing a metal-engraved portrait of her family. “While I have nothing to lose, the legal decisions of Judge Antoon that helped us prevail in Summary Judgement were too crucial to lose.”
“Attorney Frank Malatesta is already being approached by other attorneys who are working with whistleblowers and a top whistleblower attorney in the U.S. contacted me one day to tell me he was in awe of the survival of the case through the attempted dismissal and then Summary Judgement against a large corporation,” Kuba continued.
“Once more – never say never,” she affirmed. “People told my late husband, who most called ‘Kuba’, that you can’t beat Disney, but that is not true as seen in this case. We were winning.”
“I learned at the end of this that even an official in one of the states I was seeking to protect contacted both sides when Disney tried to have the case dismissed in April, 2021,” explained the whistleblower. “The state official told them they did not know why Disney was saying it was not protected activity because it definitely was.”
“Hearing that made me happy, but why the agencies did not help me, I don’t know,” she added. “Stuart Meissner told the SEC in January 2020, I became the poster child of whistleblowers that were not helped by the SEC. However, other companies should view Kuba v Disney as an example of all the things a company should NOT do. Another poster child.”
“Including areas where there is little in the way of previous decisions, Judge Antoon’s legal decisions on Kuba v Disney are there, they’re strong, and they are in favor of the whistleblower,” said Kuba. “They can be referenced by future whistleblowers and I hope they are. And, I hope, whistleblowers will learn from the case and use it as a blueprint internally, and report to the SEC quickly.”
“Frank had told me to think of the Legacy I wanted to leave behind for my kids,” she recalled. “But the Legacy I need to leave is for future whistleblowers. No matter how far I could take the case and no matter how much I could win, my story would end the same due to the suicide of my husband, Kuba, a true justice fighter.”
“Perhaps this decision today will leave some rulings that will give other whistleblowers the happy ending that eludes me,” Kuba sorrowfully opined. “I will continue to push for an investigation of Disney and work with any government officials who will listen. I will also provide help to other whistleblowers seeking advice.”
Drawing her statement to a close, Kuba asserted, “I told my son Bobby today – I am still the Disney Whistleblower. He told me – and you always will be. “
“Now Bobby and I find ourselves at a crossroads,” she said. “We can go in any direction and I am sure for each there is an adventure waiting for us. But no matter which road we choose, it will never change who I am.”
“I am the Code Administrator,” Kuba concluded. “I am the Whistleblower. And I am the widow. I am.”
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