Court squabble over $14.7 reward award reveals whistleblowers identities

A court squabble $14.7-million whistleblower bounty has identified the recipient of a record award from the Securities & Exchange Commission. A massive fraud perpetrated through the federal visa-for-sale program, known as EB-5, by a young Chicago promoter named Anshoo Sethi was halted by the whistleblower tips.

Sethi raised $147 million from rich Chinese investors for a massive project near O’Hare airport, which he marketed as the “World’s First Zero Carbon Platinum LEED-certified” hotel and convention center complex. He was charged in a February 2013 SEC fraud complaint, which was settled with fines and other sanctions this March, without any admission or denial of guilt. The matter also triggered a federal criminal investigation.

The recipient of the whistleblower award, under whistleblower provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law, is 62-year-old Michael Sears, a principal in a small Virginia-based firm called Global Capital Markets Advisors, which manages real estate investment funds. However, this has been challenged by John Tung, a principal in the firm and a veteran of the real-estate financing business, according to the firm’s website. The two men have worked together for more than a decade.

Tung claims that Sears welched on an agreement to share the windfall from the tip, which he says resulted from “their joint efforts and investigation.”

Jeff Newman represents whistleblowers