July 22, 2019

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SEC Awards Joint Whistleblowers $3 Million Even Though Information Was Not Voluntarily Given

On June 3, 2019, the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower announced a $3 million award to two whistleblowers who provided the SEC with information that led it to investigate and successfully bring an enforcement action for securities fraud that affected retail investors.  Because the whistleblowers submitted their tip to the SEC jointly, they will share the award.

Prior to the initiation of the SEC investigation, the two whistleblowers had “candid discussions” with a different regulatory authority after that agency sent a query letter to their employer.  Notably, the SEC determined that the information provided by the whistleblowers was not “voluntarily” given under Section 21F(b)(1) and Rule 21F-4(a) because they were legally required to respond to the query letter.

Nonetheless, the SEC exercised its discretionary authority under Section 36(a) of the Exchange Act to issue the award because the whistleblowers were unaware of the request from the other regulatory authority and did not learn of the existence of that authority’s investigation until several months after they reported their information to the SEC.  The SEC explained that it was “in the public interest and consistent with the protection of investors” to waive the voluntariness requirement.

Since the inception of the whistleblower program in 2011, the SEC has awarded approximately $384 million to 64 individuals.

© 2019 Proskauer Rose LLP.

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About this Author

Steven J Pearlman, Labor Employment Law Firm, Proskauer Law firm
Partner

Steven Pearlman is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the firm's Whistleblowing & Retaliation Group, resident in the Chicago office. Steven’s practice focuses on defending complex employment litigation involving claims of discrimination and harassment, wage-and-hour laws and breaches of restrictive covenants (e.g., non-competition agreements). He has successfully tried cases to verdict before judges and juries in Illinois, Florida and California, and defended what is reported to be the largest Illinois-only class action in the history of the U.S....

312-962-3545
Annabel Pollioni, Litigation lawyer, Proskaeur
Associate

Annabel Pollioni is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department and assists clients in a wide range of labor and employment law matters.

Prior to joining Proskauer, Annabel attended Rutgers School of Law and interned with the United States Attorney’s Office and with the Honorable Judge Esther Salas of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.  She also served as the Submissions Editor on the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, a teaching fellow with the Minority Student Program and a research assistant to Professor George Thomas III.  During her time as a Kinoy-Stavis Fellow, she contributed to state voting rights and federal prisoner rights litigation pursued by the Constitutional Litigation Clinic.

973-274-3230
Pinny Goldberg Labor and Employment Lawyer Proskauer Rose Law Firm
Associate

Pinny Goldberg is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department. Pinny represents employers in a broad array of matters before federal and state courts, FINRA and other arbitration panels, and administrative agencies, including the EEOC and its state equivalents, and in pre-litigation negotiations. Matters he works on include discrimination and harassment, wage and hour, wrongful discharge, whistleblowing and retaliation, covenants not to compete, breaches of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, and tort and contract claims. 

In...

212.969.3074