SEC Issues Three Whistleblower Awards Totaling Over $1 Million
On April 18, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued three separate whistleblower awards totaling over $1 million. Each of the awarded whistleblowers voluntarily provided the SEC with original information that contributed to the success of an enforcement action.
Through the SEC Whistleblower Program, qualified whistleblowers are entitled to awards of 10-30% of the funds collected by the SEC in the relevant enforcement action. The SEC has awarded over $1.2 billion to over 250 individual whistleblowers since issuing its first award in 2012.
One of the awards issued by the SEC on April 18 was a $700,000 award granted to joint whistleblowers. The whistleblowers provided the SEC with original information and the SEC subsequently passed this information along to another agency. The whistleblowers’ information led to the successful enforcement of actions by both the SEC and the other agency. Under the Dodd-Frank Act’s related action provisions, the whistleblowers were entitled to awards based on the sanctions collected in both actions.
According to the award order, in determining the exact percentage to award the whistleblowers, the SEC considered the following: “(i) Claimants’ information prompted Commission staff to begin an examination that led to the Covered Action, (ii) Claimants’ assistance helped focus the examination; (iii) some of the charges in the Commission’s Order were based, in part, on the information submitted by Claimants; and (iv) there was substantial law enforcement interest in the information provided, as it related to an ongoing fraud involving the misappropriation of investor funds.”
The second award from April 18 was for $450,000. The whistleblower in this case first reported the misconduct internally before providing information to the SEC. According to the award order, the whistleblower’s information “significantly contributed to an existing investigation” and “helped streamline the staff’s investigation and saved the staff time and resources.” The whistleblower also provided the SEC with additional assistance including identifying witnesses and specific events of interest.
The final award, a $45,000 award based on sanctions collected to date, was issued to a whistleblower whose information prompted the SEC to open an investigation. According to the award order, the whistleblower “participated in a voluntary interview with Commission staff” and “suffered hardships as a result of the underlying misconduct.”
On April 18, the SEC also issued a whistleblower award denial. The denial covers award claims submitted by two individuals for the same enforcement action which stemmed from an investigation based on a self-report by a company. The SEC found that the individuals did not contribute to the success of the enforcement action.
According to the denial, “[t]he staff responsible for the Covered Action credibly declared, under penalty of perjury, that it neither received nor used any of the information provided by either Claimant during the Investigation or in the Covered Action, nor did it have any communications with the Claimants. Moreover, the information the Claimants provided did not relate to the matters considered in the Investigation.”
Individuals considering blowing the whistle to the SEC should first consult an experienced SEC whistleblower attorney in order to ensure they are fully protected and qualify for the largest possible award.
Geoff Schweller also contributed to this article.