bounty

Show Me The Money: SEC Awards $2.5 Million To Government Agency Whistlleblower

Silver school PE sports whistle on white background Will the Whistle be Silenced? Dismantling Dodd-Frank

The SEC has awarded $2.5 million to a government agency employee who reported misconduct by a company to the SEC and caused the SEC to open an investigation. While the SEC order granting the award acknowledged that government employees may be prohibited from receiving whistleblower awards in some circumstances, such as when the employee works for a “law enforcement organization,” the SEC nevertheless determined that although “certain components of Claimant’s governmental employer have law enforcement responsibilities, [ ] those responsibilities are housed in a separate, different component of the agency at which Claimant works.” The SEC further explained that “the record is clear that this is not a situation where a claimant sought to circumvent the potential responsibilities that his or her government agency might have to investigate or otherwise take action for the misconduct.  We express no view on how an award determination might differ under that alternative circumstance.”  Ultimately, because the individual provided the Commission with “credible information . . . significant ongoing assistance, and relevant testimony that accelerated the pace of the investigation,” the SEC found the $2.5 million bounty justified.

In a press release announcing the award, the SEC noted it has now awarded approximately $156 million to 45 whistleblowers since the program’s inception.

Bounty-ful Pay Day and Former SEC Whistleblower Chief’s Move To Plaintiff’s Firm May Lead to Whistleblower Claim Increase

Two recent events may spur a rise in the number of high quality whistleblower tips filed with the SEC.  First, on August 30, 2016, the SEC announced that it had awarded a $22.4 million bounty to a former Monsanto financial executive, whose report of alleged accounting fraud led to the company’s $80 million settlement with the SEC in February.  This recent award brings the total amount paid out to whistleblowers by the SEC since the inception of the bounty program in 2011 up to $107 million, more than half of which has been paid out in 2016 alone.  This most recent award follows a string of seven and eight-figure awards in 2016, most notably topping a $17 million bounty in June 2016, and is second in size only to a September 2014 award of $30 million.  The $22.4 million award represents approximately 28% of Monsanto’s $80 million payment, just shy of the 30% award cap established for recoveries exceeding $1 million.

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