On July 25, 2017, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced it was awarding nearly $2.5 million to a government employee who tipped off the SEC to a company’s wrongdoing.
Although the SEC does not customarily release the identities of, or details about, whistleblowers, it disclosed that the whistleblower worked for a “domestic government agency.” With his or her report to the SEC, the whistleblower also provided relevant supporting documentation. As a result of the report and documentation, the SEC began an investigation into the subject company. The SEC emphasized, in making its award, that the whistleblower provided the agency with “specific, timely, and credible information, helpful documents, significant ongoing assistance, and relevant testimony that accelerated the pace of the investigation.” As a result of its investigation, the SEC obtained a monetary recovery from the investigated company. The SEC has not divulged the name of the company investigated, the amount of its monetary recovery, or what percentage of the overall recovery the whistleblower received as his or her reward.
In announcing this whistleblower award, the SEC took the opportunity to remind the public that employees of law enforcement agencies are not eligible to receive whistleblower awards. Notably, this particular whistleblower works in a government agency with a law enforcement arm, but its law enforcement functions are housed in a separate division of the agency. The SEC then raised the question of whether the exclusion for employees of law enforcement agencies applies to agencies that have some law enforcement component or components to them. However, in the announcement, the SEC declined to address that question “for all cases given the myriad permutations of domestic governmental entities and agencies,” noting that the distinction between the sub-agency that employed the whistleblower and the broader agency of which it was a part justified the award.