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Regulation and Compliance > Federal Regulation > SEC

SEC Plans to Hand Out Whopping $30 Million Whistleblower Award

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The Securities and Exchange Commission announced Monday that it expects to award a whistleblower more than $30 million for providing key original information that led to a successful SEC enforcement action.

The award will be the largest made by the SEC’s whistleblower program to date and the fourth award to a whistleblower living in a foreign country.

The second highest SEC whistleblower award of $14 million was announced last October, while the agency announced in late August that it had awarded more than $300,000 to an employee who performed audit and compliance functions.

“This whistleblower came to us with information about an ongoing fraud that would have been very difficult to detect,” said Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, in a statement. “This record-breaking award sends a strong message about our commitment to whistleblowers and the value they bring to law enforcement.”

Sean McKessy, chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, added, “This award of more than $30 million shows the international breadth of our whistleblower program as we effectively utilize valuable tips from anyone, anywhere to bring wrongdoers to justice. Whistleblowers from all over the world should feel similarly incentivized to come forward with credible information about potential violations of the U.S. securities laws.”

The SEC’s whistleblower program rewards high-quality, original information that results in an SEC enforcement action with sanctions exceeding $1 million.

Whistleblower awards can range from 10% to 30% of the money collected in a case.

“Congress has established a $450 million fund for the SEC to draw from to reward whistleblowers and the agency has given every indication it wants to use every penny of it to encourage whistleblowers to come forward,” Gordon Schnell, a partner in the whistleblower practice of Constantine Cannon, told ThinkAdvisor in an email message.

The fund is financed through monetary sanctions paid by securities law violators to the SEC.

By law, the SEC protects the confidentiality of whistleblowers and does not disclose information that might directly or indirectly reveal a whistleblower’s identity.

But in a rare occurrence, a former MassMutual employee spoke out recently out about the recent whistleblower complaint he made to the SEC after exposing serious flaws in two of MassMutual’s variable annuities, the Guaranteed Income Benefit Plus 5 and 6.

The SEC awarded its first whistleblower under the program following its inception in fiscal year 2012. The program awarded four more whistleblowers in fiscal 2013, and has awarded nine whistleblowers in fiscal 2014.

“We’re pleased with the consistent yearly growth in the number of award recipients since the program’s inception,” McKessy said.

Check out The Man Who Blew the Whistle on ThinkAdvisor.


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