SEC’s highest ever whistleblower $279 million to a whistleblower

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced the largest-ever award, nearly $279 million, to a whistleblower whose information and assistance led to the successful enforcement of SEC and related actions. This is the highest award in the SEC’s whistleblower program’s history, more than doubling the $114 million whistleblower award the SEC issued in October 2020.

Under SEC rules, a whistleblower can receive an award of between 10% and 30% of the fines collected in SEC civil-enforcement actions and related actions from other enforcement agencies resulting from a tip, assuming the SEC collects more than $1 million.

The whistleblower provided original information to the SEC resulting in a successful enforcement action by the regulator as well as two related actions, according to the award order. 

The SEC said it already had opened a probe of the unnamed company and its staff were aware of potential misconduct, it credited the whistleblower’s information with expanding its probe and for providing ongoing assistance through written submissions and interviews.

“The size of today’s award – the highest in our program’s history – not only incentivizes whistleblowers to come forward with accurate information about potential securities law violations, but also reflects the tremendous success of our whistleblower program,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “This success directly benefits investors, as whistleblower tips have contributed to enforcement actions resulting in orders requiring bad actors to disgorge more than $4 billion in ill-gotten gains and interest. As this award shows, there is a significant incentive for whistleblowers to come forward with accurate information about potential securities law violations.”

“The whistleblower’s sustained assistance including multiple interviews and written submissions was critical to the success of these actions,” said Creola Kelly, Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower.  “While the whistleblower’s information did not prompt the opening of the Commission’s investigation, their information expanded the scope of misconduct charged.”

Payments to whistleblowers are made out of an investor protection fund, established by Congress, which is financed entirely through monetary sanctions paid to the SEC by securities law violators.  No money has been taken or withheld from harmed investors to pay whistleblower awards.  Whistleblowers may be eligible for an award when they voluntarily provide the SEC with original, timely, and credible information that leads to a successful enforcement action, and adhere to filing requirements in the whistleblower rules.  Whistleblower awards can range from 10 to 30 percent of the money collected when the monetary sanctions exceed $1 million.

Jeffrey Newman is a whistleblower lawyer who handles cases under the SEC program. He can be reached at www.JeffNewmanLaw or at 617-823-3217