The New York County Lawyers’ Association (“NYCLA”) opined that, under the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers cannot ethically collect Dodd-Frank Act whistleblower awards for providing confidential client information to the SEC. NYCLA Comm. on Prof’l Ethics, Formal Op. 746, Ethical Conflicts Caused by Lawyers as Whistleblowers under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010 (Oct. 7, 2013). The NYCLA stated that the prospect of receiving a whistleblower award “might tend to cloud a lawyer’s professional judgment.” Under Dodd-Frank, individuals who provide original information to the SEC leading to an enforcement action may receive between 10-30 percent of any sanctions collected (over $1 million). SEC rules allow attorneys, as a last resort, to disclose confidential client information in rare instances to prevent or remedy securities fraud. Instead of disclosing confidential information, lawyers are encouraged to report potential securities law violations up the corporate ladder. The NYCLA concluded that lawyers cannot ethically disclose confidential information in order to collect a monetary whistleblower award because its represents a conflict of interest. The NYCLA opined that the same rationale applied to a lawyer reporting former clients as well.
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New York lawyer group opines that attorneys cannot seek whistleblower awards
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