Whistleblower

Can You Hear The Whistle Blowing?: CFTC Releases 2019 Annual Report

The U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) administer whistleblower claims under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. While the SEC has jurisdiction to regulate U.S. securities markets, the CFTC regulates the U.S. derivatives markets, which includes futures, swaps, and certain types of option contracts. In October, the CFTC’s Whistleblower Office (“WBO”) released its 2019 Annual Report (the “Report”) to two congressional subcommittees to provide insights into its whistleblower program and customer education initiatives. The Report provides an overview of the tips received by the WBO from October 1, 2018-September 30, 2019 (the “reporting period”), highlights several of the whistleblower awards from the past year, and discusses the WBO’s efforts to educate stakeholders about its whistleblower program. READ MORE

Regulators Offer Insights Into SEC, CFTC, and OSHA Whistleblower Program’s Trends and Priorities

On July 16, 2019, three prominent whistleblower law regulators spoke at PLI’s Corporate Whistleblowing in 2019, which was co-chaired by Orrick partners Mike Delikat and Renee Phillips. With the standard disclaimer that their comments and opinions were their own and not the official comments of their respective agencies, each spoke about their agencies’ whistleblower program’s current progress, challenges, and priorities. READ MORE

Inside-Out: CFTC Enhances Whistleblower Award For Internal Reporting

On May 6th, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) announced that it made a whistleblower award of approximately $1.5 million to an individual whistleblower. The individual provided information that assisted in the successful prosecution of a CFTC action and a related action brought by another federal regulator.  In particular, the CFTC recognized that the whistleblower initially sought to report his or her concerns internally prior to reporting to the CFTC, and it enhanced the individual’s award as an incentive.

In making the announcement, the Director of CFTC’s Whistleblower Office Christopher Ehrman explained, “While there is no requirement that a whistleblower report internally before approaching the Commission, today’s award demonstrates that the Commission may pay enhanced awards to those that do – that is one of the positive factors set out in our rules for the Commission to consider in making its award determination.”  Furthermore, the CFTC recognized that the information the claimant provided “was directly incorporated into strategy involving witness interviews, and his/her early assistance saved Commission resources through his/her explanation of a complex scheme.”

Since the beginning of the CFTC’s whistleblower program in 2014, the agency has awarded more than $85 million to whistleblowers.

IRS Reports Record $312 Million In Whistleblower Bounties

In February, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its FY 2018 Annual Report and announced a record-breaking year for the agency’s whistleblower program.  Overall, whistleblowers provided information that contributed to the agency’s recovery of over $1.44 billion during the course of the year.  As a result, the IRS awarded $312 million in bounty awards to whistleblowers in FY2018, an almost ten-fold increase from the $33.9 million in awards it made in FY2017.  Of the 217 total awards the agency made to whistleblowers in FY 2018, 31 were mandatory awards under Internal Revenue Code section 7623(b) and 186 were discretionary awards under section 7623(a) (which applies to smaller cases). The average award percentage from the total amount collected was 21.7% – up from 16.6% in FY 2016 and 17.8% in FY 2017. READ MORE

Can You Hear The Whistle Blowing Outside: CFTC Makes First Ever Whistleblower Award To Company Outsider

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced earlier this month that it had awarded more than $2 million to an individual who provided “critical information through independent analysis of market data” contributing both to a successful CFTC action and related action brought by another federal regulator. The payout is the first of its kind for the CFTC because it is the first time the agency has awarded a whistleblower who was a company outsider. READ MORE

The Whistle Blows North of the Border: Canadian Securities Regulator Makes First-Ever Whistleblower Awards

This article was co-authored by Omar Madhany, Associate at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP [1], and Mike Delikat, who co-heads the Whistleblowing Taskforce at Orrick.

On February 27, 2019, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC)—Canada’s largest securities regulator—announced that it had awarded $7.5 million to three whistleblowers who provided tips that led to enforcement actions. (see OSC news release here). The awards are the first ever made under Ontario’s whistleblower bounty program, which was patterned closely after the bounty provisions of Dodd-Frank.  While these awards are small by comparison to recent SEC bounty awards of $54 million to two whistleblowers in September 2018 and a separate composite mega-award of $83 million to three whistleblowers in a single enforcement action on March 19, 2018, nonetheless these Canadian awards have garnered significant attention and press coverage in Canada.

READ MORE

The SEC Ends the Summer with Another Bountiful Award of over $54 Million to Two Whistleblowers

On September 6, the SEC issued awards totaling more than $54 million to two whistleblowers who provided critical information and continued assistance to the agency in an enforcement action. This large award follows another composite mega-award of $83 million to three whistleblowers in a single enforcement action on March 19, 2018.

The September 6 award of $39 million to one claimant constitutes the second-largest award in the SEC whistleblower program’s history. The agency awarded the second whistleblower $15 million. Jane Norberg, Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, stated that whistleblowers “serve as invaluable sources of information, and can propel an investigation forward by helping [the SEC] overcome obstacles and delays in investigation.” READ MORE

Can You Hear The Whistle Now? SEC Proposes New Rule Amendments To Bolster the Bounty Program

On June 28, the Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “Commission”) voted to propose amendments to its whistleblower program. As SEC Chair Jay Clayton explained, the proposed changes would “strengthen the whistleblower program by bolstering the Commission’s ability to more appropriately and expeditiously reward those who provide critical information that leads to successful enforcement actions.” The SEC issued a press release outlining the proposed rules, which would: (1) provide the Commission with additional tools in making whistleblower awards; (2) clarify the requirements for anti-retaliation protection under the whistleblower statute; (3) provide interpretive guidance to help clarify the meaning of “independent analysis”; (4) increase efficiencies in the whistleblower claims review process; and (5) clarify various miscellaneous policies and procedures. READ MORE

EU Plans on Whistleblower Protection

According to a survey by a national German newspaper, a large proportion of German whistleblowers are facing labor law and even health problems in connection with whistleblowing. 13 out of 20 whistleblowers subsequently lost their jobs. READ MORE

Take It Outside: Supreme Court Unanimously Holds That Internal Reporting Is Not Protected Under Dodd-Frank

In the Supreme Court’s first decision interpreting Dodd-Frank’s whistleblower retaliation provisions, the Court unanimously held that internal whistleblowing is not protected under Dodd-Frank.  The highly anticipated ruling resolves a circuit split between the Second and Ninth Circuits, which held that such reporting was protected, and the Fifth Circuit, which held that it was not.  The Court sided with the Fifth Circuit’s textual reading and held that no Chevron deference to the SEC’s interpretation of the statute was warranted because the statutory definition of “whistleblower” was clear. READ MORE