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What are SEC Sanctions and Penalties?

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtains billions of dollars each year in monetary sanctions from wrongdoers. As a part of the SEC’s enforcement responsibilities, it issues orders and administers judgements ordering securities violators to, among other things:

  • Disgorge, or pay back, ill-gotten gains in order to return the funds to harmed investors;

  • Pay civil monetary penalties (see the calculation of civil monetary penalties); and

  • Pay interest (prejudgement and potentially post judgement).

The calculation of monetary sanctions is critically important to SEC whistleblowers. Under the Dodd-Frank Act’s SEC Whistleblower Program, the SEC will issue awards to whistleblowers who provide original information that leads to a successful SEC enforcement actions with total monetary sanctions exceeding $1 million. A whistleblower may receive an award of between 10% and 30% of the total monetary sanctions collected, which can lead to substantial awards. The largest SEC whistleblower awards to date are $50 million, $39 million and $37 million. 

Year-By-Year Total SEC Sanctions Since FY ’04

Annually, the SEC announces the total monetary sanctions obtained from successful enforcement actions. The table below identifies the total illegal profits that securities violators were required to disgorge and the total penalties they were required to pay.

Fiscal Year




$2.506 billion

$1.439 billion


$2.957 billion

$832 million


$2.809 billion

$1.273 billion


$3.019 billion

$1.175 billion


$4.16 billion total

$4.16 billion total


$2.257 billion

$1.167 billion


$2.083 billion

$1.021 billion


$1.878 billion

$928 million


$1.82 billion

$1.03 billion


$2.09 billion

$345 million


$774 million

$256 million


$1.093 billion

$507 million


$2.3 billion

$975 million


$1.6 billion

$1.5 billion


$1.9 billion

$1.2 billion

For more information on SEC sanctions, see a recent speech by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement: Remedies and Relief in SEC Enforcement Actions

© 2020 Zuckerman Law


About this Author

Jason Zuckerman, Whistleblower Litigation Attorney, Washington DC  Law Firm

Described by the National Law Journal as a “leading whistleblower attorney,” Jason Zuckerman litigates whistleblower ...

(202) 262-8959
Matthew Stock, CPA, Auditor, Zuckerman Law Firm
Certified Public Accountant

Matthew Stock is an associate at Zuckerman Law, where his practice focuses on representing whistleblowers in whistleblower rewards and whistleblower retaliation cases. He is also a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner, and former KPMG external auditor.

As an auditor, Mr. Stock developed an expertise in financial statement analysis, internal controls testing, and fraud recognition. At Zuckerman Law, Mr. Stock uses his auditing experience to help whistleblowers investigate and disclose to the government complex financial frauds. In addition, Mr. Stock routinely assists whistleblowers in Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower retaliation cases analyze a wide range of accounting issues, including revenue recognition, earnings management, and financial statement fraud.