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SEC Releases FY 2021 Whistleblower Program Annual Report

On November 15, 2021, the SEC published its annual report to Congress covering the period from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021.  The report was prepared by the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower to summarize its whistleblower bounty program, report on the program’s recent dramatic growth, and highlight key amendments to the SEC’s whistleblower program rules.

Record-Breaking Awards for Whistleblower Bounty Program

The report reveals that in FY 2021, the whistleblower program experienced the largest number of submissions to the program and the largest number of award recipients.  The SEC paid out more in whistleblower awards this fiscal year than in all previous years combined.

The SEC received more than 12,200 whistleblower tips; an increase of 76% from FY 2020.  The tips were received from 99 different countries and all 50 states.  The most common violations reported included: Manipulation (25%), Corporate Disclosures and Financials (16%), Offering Fraud (16%), Trading and Pricing (6%), and Initial Coin Offerings and Cryptocurrencies (6%).

Overall, the SEC awarded approximately $564 million to 108 individuals in FY 2021, including the two largest single award payouts to date—$114 million in October 2020 and $110 million in September 2021—which brought the total amount the SEC has awarded to whistleblowers since the program’s inception to $1.1 billion.  

Amendments to Whistleblower Program Rules

The SEC adopted several changes to its whistleblower program effective as of December 2020, including to its award-setting procedures and to the definition of a “whistleblower” (see our post on those changes here).  According to the report, these amendments “increased efficiencies around the review and processing of whistleblower award claims.”

Under the new rules, the SEC issued two permanent bar orders against serial submitters who were responsible for hundreds of frivolous award applications.

The report also noted that in August 2020, the new SEC Chair, Gary Gensler, directed staff to consider revisions to two amendments that could have discouraged tips by allowing the SEC to limit the size of some of the largest awards and to unilaterally deny “related action” awards where there is another applicable whistleblower award program.


© 2023 Proskauer Rose LLP. National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 335

About this Author

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

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....

Pinny Goldberg Labor and Employment Lawyer Proskauer Rose Law Firm

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. 



Shanice Smith-Banks earned her J.D. from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, where she was a Managing Editor of the Loyola University Journal of Public Interest Law and a member of the Trial Advocacy program. As a 3L, Shanice was awarded the CourtCall Award for her advocacy skills.

Immediately upon graduation from Loyola, Shanice argued a case on behalf of the Loyola Criminal Defense Law Clinic in front of the Louisiana Supreme Court.