A $114 million whistleblower payout announced Thursday is the highest ever awarded by the Securities and Exchange Commission, more than doubling the previous $50 million record set in June.
The record payout encompasses two separate but related cases, the SEC said, for which the whistleblower’s “extraordinary” actions and “high-quality information” proved crucial to the successful enforcement actions.
In total, four claimants were considered in the assessing of the award, but the SEC denied three of the claims for not being used and having “no impact on the covered action.”
The award consists of $52 million paid out in connection with an SEC case and $62 million “arising out of the related actions by another agency,” the SEC said. As it does with all award announcements, the SEC does not release any information that could uncover the whistleblower’s identity.
“Today’s milestone award is a testament to the Commission’s commitment to award whistleblowers who provide the agency with high-quality information,” said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton in a press release. “Whistleblowers make important contributions to the enforcement of securities laws and we are committed to getting more money to whistleblowers as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”
Jane Norberg, chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, said the award recipient repeatedly reported concerns internally, “and despite personal and professional hardships, the whistleblower alerted the SEC and the other agency of the wrongdoing and provided substantial, ongoing assistance that proved critical to the success of the actions.”
The award is the second of the fiscal year after the SEC concluded a record FY2020 on Sept. 30. Thursday’s payout alone is 65 percent of the record $175 million distributed during FY2020.
The SEC has awarded approximately $676 million to 108 individuals since issuing its first award in 2012. SEC whistleblower awards range from 10 to 30 percent of monetary sanctions that exceed $1 million.
The Commission, which reviews and approves all awards, grappled with the issue of large payouts as it considered rule changes to the whistleblower program ultimately finalized last month. The Commission was clearly concerned such large awards would drain the Investor Protection Fund that is financed through monetary sanctions paid to the SEC. One idea was to set a $30 million floor for large awards and give the Commission the discretion to limit such payouts closer to the 10 percent of monetary sanctions, compared to 30 percent. Critics called it a “soft cap,” although Clayton bristled at the notion.
In the end, the SEC scrapped the proposal and simply approved new rules stating it has always had the power to limit large awards. Whistleblower advocates and two Democratic commissioners said leaving the discretion to set large awards exclusively with the SEC would lead to some whistleblowers being treated unfairly and could discourage whistleblowers with important information on fraud from coming forward.