The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week announced a payout of more than $1 million to a whistleblower who provided information that resulted in a successful SEC enforcement action against a “registered entity” (e.g., a broker-dealer) that “impacted retail customers.” The SEC announced the award, while keeping the details of the enforcement action, the whistleblower, and the total penalty under wraps, in a redaction-filled Order Determining Whistleblower Award Claim.
Since the inception of its whistleblower program in 2011, the SEC has awarded more than $162 million to nearly 50 individuals. The SEC’s largest award to date was over $30 million in September 2014, and the average payout has been more than $3 million. According to the SEC, whistleblower tips have led to successful enforcements actions resulting in over $1 billion in monetary sanctions.
The SEC’s whistleblower program was created by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2011 to encourage those with information about securities law violations to report to the SEC. The Act established the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower and put in place processes for fielding and investigating tips. If a whistleblower provides “high-quality original information” that leads to an enforcement action where monetary sanctions exceed $1 million, the SEC will issue a bounty equal to 10 to 30 percent of the sanctions. The program has proven highly successful at encouraging those with potentially helpful information to go to the SEC: In fiscal year 2016 alone, the Office of the Whistleblower received 4,218 tips, approximately 12 per day.