The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has just announced that its Office of the Whistleblower Chief, Sean McKessy, will be leaving this month, according to plans shared by the agency in an official statement.
Having become the first to head the SEC’s whistleblower program in February of 2011, Mr. McKessy helped established the office and operate it for more than five years already. He now prepares to depart in July, after a successful contribution to the agency whilst holding this role.
It has been an honor and pleasure to serve as the first Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower.
$85m awarded to 32 recipients
More than 14,000 whistleblower tips from across the US and 95 foreign countries were screened by the office under his stewardship, resulting in $85 million awarded to 32 whistleblowers to date.
These rewarded tips led to over $504 million in ordered sanctions from SEC enforcement actions. This total includes over $346 million in disgorgement and interest for harmed investors, and with $453 million recovered or nearly 90% of the total sanctioned amount – thanks to the intelligence that whistleblowers’ shared with the SEC.
Sean has been a staunch advocate for whistleblowers, a relentless promoter of the program, and an invaluable advisor on these issues.
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The SEC’s Whistleblowers’ office is responsible for screening all tips received from potential informants that report alleged infringements or perceived violations of securities laws by market participants in return for monetary awards, while keeping their identities private.
Mr. McKessy oversaw the office’s work which included reviewing award claims for whistleblowers to help determine whether they satisfied the eligibility criteria to receive award compensation.
The tips received by the SEC from whistleblowers contained potential intelligence that needs to be screened so that an award could be given if the information helped lead to direct enforcement actions by the SEC (against entities) over violations of related securities’ laws, and depending on other contingent eligibility criteria.
There are a number of variables the SEC applies, using a systematic approach to determine whether a reward amount will be increased or decreased when Whistleblowers are eligible to become award recipients.
Commenting in a statement regarding his planned departure, Mr. McKessy said: “It has been an honor and pleasure to serve as the first Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower. Working with the extraordinarily talented and dedicated staff of the Whistleblower Office and the Enforcement Division in standing up a groundbreaking and exemplary Whistleblower Office has been the highlight of my professional career.”
Jane Norberg named Interim Chief
Until a replacement is appointed for role, the Office’s Deputy Chief, Jane Norberg, will act as Interim Chief, following the planned departure of Mr. McKessy.
“The SEC’s whistleblower program has had a transformative impact on the agency, and Sean’s service as the first head of the Whistleblower Office has contributed greatly to the program’s success,” said Andrew J. Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, commenting in a statement, and concluded: “Sean has been a staunch advocate for whistleblowers, a relentless promoter of the program, and an invaluable advisor on these issues.”
Mr. McKessy has been advocating and supporting the Whistleblower program since its inception and his contributions to the Dodd-Frank reforms which helped create the program (among other rules that blanketed financial services) earned him an award of his own from the SEC in Law and Policy in 2011. In a video post on the SEC’s YouTube channel, as seen below, Mr. McKessy explains how the Whistleblower program works: