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While much attention has been paid to the size of SEC whistleblower awards — with many complaints that sizable bounties encourage whistleblowers to bypass internal compliance protocols — the truth is, the program incentivizes employees to first report internally. Last week, the Commission announced a first-of-its-kind bounty exceeding $4.5 million for a whistleblower tip that led to an internal investigation of the alleged misconduct. Following its investigation, the company self-reported its findings to the SEC and another agency. In keeping with the rules of the whistleblower program, within 120 days of reporting the misconduct internally, the whistleblower also reported to the SEC.
In the official SEC press release, Jane Norberg, who leads the SEC Office of the Whistleblower noted that “The whistleblower gets credit for the company’s internal investigation because the allegations were reported to the Commission within 120 days of the report to the company.”
This case represents the very best of the SEC whistleblower program in form and function, an investor protection initiative designed to encourage employees to come forward to report misconduct so that responsible organizations can properly investigate and report malfeasance.