On Friday, the SEC announced its latest whistleblower award -- a sizable one that is noteworthy for at least three reasons.
First, the award to a company employee was for more than $3.5 million, a significant award that now becomes the third-largest on record. The largest award to date was for $30 million (announced Sept. 22, 2014) and the second-largest was for $14 million (announced Oct. 1, 2013). To date, the SEC’s whistleblower program has now awarded more than $62 million to 28 whistleblowers since it launched in 2011.
Second, the SEC emphasized in its announcement that the case at issue was one that the SEC was already investigating (based on media reports) when it received the whistleblower's tip. The tip, however, provided the SEC with important new information and supporting documentation of wrongdoing that strengthened the SEC’s case. The SEC stated that the case was a reminder that whistleblowers should be encouraged to report violations even if they think the SEC may already be looking into it. Andrew Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, stated that
Whistleblowers can receive an award not only when their tip initiates an investigation, but also when they provide new information or documentation that advances an existing inquiry. This particular whistleblower’s tip substantially strengthened our ongoing case and increased our leverage during settlement negotiations with the company.
Finally, the SEC's Order in the case notes that the whistleblower's claim for an award was actually denied at first by the SEC "because the information that Claimant provided did not lead to the successful enforcement of the Covered Action." The whistleblower, however, did not give up, and filed a response contesting the SEC's determination denying the award. The Order states that based on the response and its receipt of "certain additional factual information from staff in the Division of Enforcement responsible for the Covered Action," the SEC changed its determination and approved the award in excess of $3.5 million.