The Securities and Exchange Commission issued its 100th individual whistleblower award Monday when a tipster received $1.8 million for providing the agency with information that alerted staff to ongoing securities violations.
“Today’s award marks a milestone for the whistleblower program,” said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton in a press release. “This whistleblower is the 100th individual to receive an award under the program since its inception, and the 33rd individual awarded so far this year. The pace and the amounts of the awards in recent years underscore the Commission’s commitment to increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the whistleblower program.”
The SEC has awarded approximately $527 million since issuing its first award in 2012. As Clayton alluded to, the agency has been on a payout binge in 2020, far outpacing the previous eight years. This month alone the SEC has announced nine awards, including two late last week regarding overseas misconduct.
The surge in payouts coincidentally corresponds with controversial changes to the SEC’s whistleblower program announced last week. The updates are aimed to make the process of issuing awards more streamlined and efficient, but critics point to potentially unfair evaluation standards and new limits on anti-retaliation protections as ways whistleblowers could be disincentivized moving forward.
Scrapped from the changes was a proposal that could have capped large awards. Payouts range from 10 percent to 30 percent of the money collected when the penalties exceed $1 million; 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.
Aside from being the 100th payout, Monday’s case offered a unique wrinkle as the tipster was a company outsider.
“Today’s award demonstrates the success of the program and the important role that company outsiders can play in halting ongoing violations,” stated Jane Norberg, chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower. “While many of our whistleblowers have been insiders, the agency also receives critical intelligence from company outsiders, like today’s whistleblower, whose swift reporting alerted staff to the violations that resulted in the success of this enforcement action.”
The SEC neither identifies whistleblowers, nor discloses information that could reveal a whistleblower’s identity.