SEC Offers $17m Whistleblower Reward in Bid to Curb Illicit Activity

The SEC has offered a $17m reward for any individual helping provide tangible assistance or tips to an investigation.

The US’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has offered a sum of $17 million in the form of a whistleblower award to any former company employee whose tip substantially and materially advances and assists in the regulator’s investigation and enforcement action. To date, this is the second largest reward ever offered, after a $30 million sum back in September 2014.

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The SEC has a history of such rewards, which essentially expedite insight into an investigation. Given the unique vantage point afforded by former employees, such tips can be instrumental in bringing parties to justice. The financial services industry is no stranger to fines in recent years, with LIBOR and FX manipulation and rigging resulting in record fines for firms.

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The SEC’s whistleblower program has doled out a total of $85 million to 32 individuals since launching back in 2011, which averages out to almost $19 million per annum. The latest $17 proposed reward constitutes a much higher prize, proportionally speaking, underscoring the SEC’s commitment to justice.

In particular, whistleblowers may be eligible for an award after they voluntarily provide the SEC with useful information that ultimately leads to a successful enforcement action. The sum itself is garnered from money collected when a given monetary sanction exceeds $1 million, often resulting in a reward of between 10-30%.

According to Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, in a recent statement on the reward: “Company insiders are uniquely positioned to protect investors and blow the whistle on a company’s wrongdoing by providing key information to the SEC so we can investigate the full extent of the violations. The information and assistance provided by this whistleblower enabled our enforcement staff to conserve time and resources and gather strong evidence supporting our case.”

“In the past month, five whistleblowers have received a total of more than $26 million, and we hope these substantial awards encourage other individuals with knowledge of potential federal securities law violations to make the right choice to come forward and report the wrongdoing to the SEC,” noted Sean X. McKessy, Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower.

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