In its 2019 Annual Report to Congress, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC” or “Commission”) whistleblower program announced a “momentous milestone”: The SEC has ordered over $2 billion in sanctions since the inception of the whistleblower program.
The Report outlined other key statistics from FY 2019. Approximately $60 million was awarded to eight individuals in FY 2019. Further, the Commission received over 5,200 tips in FY 2019, representing “the second largest number of tips received in a fiscal year.” The Report noted that from FY 2012 to FY 2019, whistleblower tips to the Commission increased by approximately 74 percent.
The Report also highlighted current trends in whistleblower activity. International activity was significant, as evidenced by the fact that in FY 2019 individuals from 70 foreign countries submitted whistleblower tips to the Commission. In FY 2019, three of the whistleblower award recipients “were located abroad, or reported conduct that was occurring abroad, demonstrating the international reach of the program.” Moreover, several award recipients “reported misconduct that was impacting retail investors, furthering a Commission priority to protect the Main Street investor.” The Report noted that seven of the eight individuals who received whistleblower awards “reported their concerns to the company.” Another trending category was cryptocurrencies, which accounted for nearly 300 tips in FY 2019.
The Report underscored the Office of the Whistleblower “continues to view anti-retaliation protections as a high priority to ensure that whistleblowers can report to the Commission without fear of reprisal.” Similarly, the Report noted the Office of the Whistleblower “continues to work with investigative staff to identify and investigate practices in the use of confidentiality and other kinds of agreements, or engagement in other practices, to interfere with individuals’ abilities to report potential wrongdoing to the Commission.”
As evidenced in the SEC’s Report, the whistleblower program remains in full swing. Being familiar with the SEC whistleblower program’s activities and priorities can provide valuable information as employers evaluate their policies and procedures.