SEC Whistleblower Receives $17 Million Award for Opening Investigation
On July 19, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a whistleblower award of more than $17 million to an individual who provided the agency with original information that led to both a successful SEC enforcement action and a successful related enforcement by another agency.
Through the SEC Whistleblower Program, qualified whistleblowers, individuals who voluntarily provide the agency information which contributes to a successful enforcement action, are entitled to monetary awards of 10-30% of the funds collected in the enforcement action. Under the Dodd-Frank Act’s related action provisions, when a whistleblower’s disclosure to the SEC also leads to a successful related enforcement action by another agency, the whistleblower is also entitled to a monetary award based on the sanctions collected in the related action.
According to the award order, the whistleblower’s information “caused the staff to open the investigation that led to the Covered Action.” The whistleblower “also provided Enforcement staff with detailed information and documents early in the investigation” and “offered ongoing assistance by, among other things, speaking with the Enforcement staff on several occasions.” The SEC notes that in determining the exact percentage of the award, it recognized “the significance of the information provided by [the whistleblower] and the high law enforcement interest.”
“Today’s award underscores the SEC’s commitment to rewarding meritorious whistleblowers who provide valuable information and exemplary cooperation that advance the agency’s enforcement efforts,” said Creola Kelly, Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower.
In February 2022, the SEC announced proposed amendments to the rules governing its whistleblower program. One rule change would allow the SEC to pay related action awards for enforcement actions taken by other entities even when those agencies have their own whistleblower reward programs with more direct connection to the action. According to SEC Chair Gary Gensler, this rule change “is designed to ensure that a whistleblower is not disadvantaged by another whistleblower program that would not give them as high an award as the SEC would offer.” This proposed rule is supported by whistleblower advocates.
Since issuing its first award in 2012, the SEC has issued approximately $1.3 billion in whistleblower awards to 278 whistleblowers. Individuals considering blowing the whistle should first contact an experienced SEC whistleblower attorney to ensure they qualify for the largest award possible.
Geoff Schweller also contributed to this article.