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Senate committee approves antitrust whistleblower bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill on Thursday aimed at preventing retaliation against people who report criminal price-fixing to the Justice Department, the panel said in a statement.

The bill, which will now go to the full Senate, was recommended in a July 2011 report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.

That report had noted that whistleblowers had no legal recourse if they faced firing or other retaliation after reporting wrongdoing by their companies to the Justice Department, which prosecutes price-fixing.

"Too often whistleblowers who risk their careers to expose waste, fraud and abuse are treated like second-class citizens," said Senator Chuck Grassley, the committee's top Republican.

There is no word so far on when the Leahy-Grassley Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act, which was introduced in January, will be taken up or whether the House of Representatives plans matching legislation.

The measure is a follow-up to a 2004 bill that created the Justice Department's leniency program. Under that program, companies which discover and report price fixing by their own employees face fewer consequences than companies which do not.

For the full text of the bill, see: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s42is/pdf/BILLS-113s42is.pdf

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Krista Hughes)

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