SEC Reports Whistleblower Program Gathered Steam in 2012

January 15, 2013

994161_steam.jpgFollowing the SEC's payment of its first Whistleblower award in the amount of $50,000, the SEC reports that its Whistleblower Program generated a total of 3001 tips through fiscal year 2012. Read the report here: SEC Annual Report on the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program 2012.pdf. Big payouts and many more cases are expected. The SEC also reported that whistleblower tips identified over half of all fraud schemes uncovered in public companies, while outsiders, including the SEC, only identified about 5% of such schemes.

As preciously discussed on this blog, the SEC's Whistleblower Program provides regulatory authority for the SEC to pay 10-30% bounties to whistleblowers whose tips lead to a SEC enforcement action with cummulative penalties of over $1,000,000. Fines, disgorgement and interest paid all count toward the $1,000,000 threshold. The determination of the actual percentage and amount of the award is within the discretion of the SEC which is to consider the significance of the tip, the degree of assistance provided and the "programmatic interest " of the SEC in the particular action.

Skeptics continue to voice concerns that some employees will "blow the whistle" only to get the substantial reward rather than pursue internal company procedures to avoid or limit improper conduct. Despite these reasonable concerns, the SEC Whistleblower Program and similar measures are unquestionably the trend in compliance legislation and hold great public appeal. Companies subject to SEC jurisdiction should govern themselves accordingly.