In July 2016, Sean McKessy, the first-ever Chief of the SEC's Office of the Whistleblower, announced that he was leaving the agency. Today, whistleblower law firm Phillips & Cohen announced that McKessy will be joining the firm as a partner in its Washington, D.C. office.
McKessy was hired to start the SEC's Office of the Whistleblower in February 2011, and held that position for over five years as the Office went from non-existent to a major piece of the SEC's enforcement program. Just last week, the agency's awards to whistleblowers passed the $100 million mark. Commenting on that milestone, Enforcement Director Andrew Ceresney called the whistleblower program "transformative," and emphasized that the Whistleblower Office has enabled the SEC "to bring high quality enforcement cases quicker using fewer resources.” The SEC's Jane Norberg is Acting Chief of the Office following McKessy’s departure.
Phillips & Cohen represents U.S. and international whistleblowers under reward programs offered by the SEC, CFTC, IRS, the False Claims Act and similar state whistleblower laws. According to its website, the firm has recovered a record $11.6 billion in civil and related criminal settlements for government entities, and its clients have earned whistleblower rewards totaling more than $1 billion. Its clients' recoveries reportedly include the largest SEC whistleblower award to date--an award of more than $30 million that the agency announced in September 2014.
Phillips & Cohen partner Erika Kelton said that "no one knows or understands the SEC whistleblower program better than Sean McKessy." She added that "too often, top government attorneys go to work defending corporate interests. It's great to have an attorney of Sean's caliber and experience on the side of whistleblowers."
McKessy told the WSJ that it was “very, very difficult to leave the baby that I created at the SEC” but that he has three children approaching college age and "tuition bills looming." He explained that his move to Phillips & Cohen would allow him to remain an active participant in the whistleblower world.