Moving Right Along: The Office of Whistleblower Issues Its 2013 Annual Report

The SEC released its Fiscal Year 2013 Annual Report   (the “Report”) to Congress on the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program on  November 15, 2013.  The Report analyzes the tips received over the last twelve months by the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower (“OWB”) and provides additional information about the whistleblower award evaluation process.

Breakdown of Tips Received in FY 2013

The OWB reported a modest increase in the number of whistleblower tips and complaints that it received in 2013 – 3,238 tips in 2013 compared to 3,001 in 2012.  Overall, the 2013 whistleblower tips were similar in number, type, and geographic source to the whistleblower tips reported in 2012.  As in 2012, the most common types of allegations in 2013 were: Corporate Disclosure and Financials (17.2%), Offering Fraud (17.1%), and Manipulation (16.2%).  Most whistleblowers, however, selected “Other” when asked to describe their allegations.  In 2012, the most common complaint categories reported were also Corporate Disclosure and Financials (18.2%), Offering Fraud (15.5%), and Manipulation (15.2%).  See Appendix B to the Report, listing tips by allegation type and comparing tips received in 2013 to those received in 2012. Read More

The SEC Wants to Know About Your Whistleblower Policy

SEC Regional Office Director David Bergers recently emphasized the importance of a company’s whistleblower policy when deciding whether to file an enforcement action against a company. Bergers made his comments at an internal investigations panel on December 7, 2012 sponsored by the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. For more information about the panel, see Martha Kessler, Bergers Tells Issuers to Preserve Data Upon Learning of Possible Investigation, Bloomberg Securities Regulation & Law Report, 44 SRLR 2280 (Dec. 17, 2012).

Bergers noted that a company should show the SEC that it takes whistleblowers seriously, even if a particular whistleblower has issues that the company believes undermine his or her credibility. “We want to see that the company is taking their concerns seriously, and how they are talking about them,” Bergers said. The SEC wants to know that the company is “separating [the allegations] from whatever or whoever is making them.” The company that acknowledges that there has been a whistleblower complaint, but tells the SEC “first let us give you the employment file” may find itself at odds with the SEC’s approach to a whistleblower’s concerns. Although the SEC will consider information about the whistleblower, including material in an employment file, Bergers noted that the agency is primarily interested in what the company does with the whistleblower’s allegations and how it treats the whistleblower.

Let this serve as a reminder of the importance of a well-considered whistleblower policy in preparing for potential communications with the SEC.

SEC Pays First Ever Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Bounty Award

On August 21, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it has awarded its first whistleblower bounty, just over one year after the SEC’s Dodd-Frank whistleblower rules became effective. The SEC’s Claims Review Staff issued a short order, Release No. 34-67698, granting the whistleblower’s award, which notes that the SEC declined to award a claim to a second whistleblower involved in the action.
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And the Whistle Blows…

The SEC came under scrutiny, including from U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, following an April 25, 2012 front page article in the Wall Street Journal which reported that the Agency had inadvertently revealed the identity of a whistleblower during an inquiry into his former employer.

The investigation involved Pipeline Trading Systems LLC, which runs stock trading platforms under its new name, Aritas Securities LLC.  According to the article, an SEC Staff Attorney showed a notebook belonging to the whistleblower to a Pipeline executive during an interview.  The executive recognized the handwriting regarding trades, meetings, and phone calls.  Pipeline settled with the SEC on October 24, 2011.  Read More