The Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday announced its largest ever whistleblower award to a single individual at nearly $50 million.
The whistleblower provided “detailed, firsthand observations of misconduct by a company, which resulted in a successful enforcement action that returned a significant amount of money to harmed investors,” the SEC said. The SEC did not release the exact amount of the award in its press release or the order issuing the whistleblower’s claim.
The tipster provided information that was “highly significant,” with “firsthand observations of misconduct by the Company that was previously unknown to the staff,” according to the order. In addition, the whistleblower “laid out in detail substantial aspects of the scheme and provided a roadmap for the investigation,” and that information provided “helped the Commission further significant law enforcement interests.”
“This award marks several milestones for the whistleblower program,” said Jane Norberg, chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, in the press release. “This award is the largest individual whistleblower award announced by the SEC since the inception of the program, and brings the total awarded to whistleblowers by the SEC to over $500 million, including over $100 million in this fiscal year alone. Whistleblowers have proven to be a critical tool in the enforcement arsenal to combat fraud and protect investors.”
Interestingly, the SEC’s order also denied a claim by a second whistleblower on the same covered action.
In the order, the SEC said the second claimant was not a whistleblower under its rules and did not provide information related to the company’s misconduct. The denied claimant contested the denial, saying he or she provided the information jointly with the whistleblower who received the award. The SEC said there is “no evidence” to support the second claimant’s assertion that they participated in the first whistleblower’s tip.
The SEC has awarded over $500 million to 83 individuals since issuing its first award in 2012. Thirteen awards have been distributed this year alone. SEC whistleblower awards can range from 10 percent to 30 percent of the money collected when the penalties exceed $1 million, and all award payments are made through an investor protection fund established by Congress and financed by monetary sanctions paid to the SEC by securities law violators.
The SEC neither identifies whistleblowers, nor discloses information that could reveal a whistleblower’s identity.