The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has surpassed $900 million in whistleblower awards with a $28 million payout announced Wednesday.
The SEC said the whistleblower aided in an SEC investigation as well as another investigation launched by a separate federal agency. Under the SEC’s whistleblower program, individuals who provide information to other agencies may be eligible for an award in the related action, if they are also eligible for an award in the underlying SEC action.
The SEC does not disclose any information that might reveal a whistleblower’s identity.
However, whistleblower law firm Connors Law Group said the award was made to their client, who tipped off the SEC about violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by Panasonic Avionics in Asia and Europe.
In 2018, Panasonic paid $280 million in penalties and disgorgement to the Department of Justice and the SEC. The settlement resolved charges arising out of a scheme to retain consultants for improper purposes and conceal payments to third-party sales agents, in violation of the accounting provisions of the FCPA.
With the $28 million payout, the SEC has awarded approximately $901 million to 163 whistleblowers through its program, which launched in 2012 as part of the Dodd-Frank Act. This month alone, the SEC has awarded $85 million to nine whistleblowers, among them payouts of $50 million and $27 million.
The SEC has paid out approximately $339 million to whistleblowers so far in fiscal year 2021, which began Oct. 1. The previous high-water mark for bounties in a fiscal year was in 2020, when $175 million was awarded.
The rapid pace of payouts this month has come despite the fact Jane Norberg, who was chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower since 2016 and deputy chief four years before that, left the post in April. Emily Pasquinelli is currently acting chief of the office.
All whistleblower payments are drawn from an investor protection fund established by Congress financed through penalties brought against violators of securities laws. Whistleblower awards can range from 10 percent to 30 percent of the money collected when the monetary sanctions exceed $1 million.
Editor’s note: This story was updated May 20 with additional details from Connors Law Group.