March 12, 2024

DOJ announces plan to establish a whistleblower rewards program

In a recent speech at the American Bar Association’s National Institute on White Collar Crime, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced the Department of Justice’s plan to establish a new whistleblower rewards program.  The program is part of a larger effort by the DOJ to encourage more reporting of criminal conduct, including, for example, the recent establishment of the Mergers & Acquisitions Safe Harbor Policy that allowed acquiring companies to presumptively receive a declination when they promptly and voluntarily disclosed misconduct at an acquired company and engaged in appropriate remediation, restitution, and disgorgement.

Monaco’s March 7, 2024 speech did not announce the fully implemented whistleblower program.  Rather, she stated the DOJ was launching a “90-day sprint to develop and implement a pilot program, with a formal start date later this year.”  Despite the DOJ not having finalized the program, Monaco said that “basic guardrails” for the program had been established:

  • The DOJ would only pay a whistleblower after all victims had been compensated
  • Whistleblowers could only receive a payment if they submitted truthful information not already known to the government and were not involved in the criminal activity themselves

Moreover, Monaco stated that the new program would only make payments where there was not already existing incentives for whistleblowing (e.g., the program would not apply to qui tam lawsuits).

According to Monaco, the DOJ is especially interested in receiving information from whistleblowers regarding “criminal abuses in the U.S. financial system; foreign corruption cases outside the jurisdiction of the SEC,” including violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Foreign Extortion Prevention Act; and domestic corruption cases, “especially [those] involving illegal corporate payments to government officials.”

The day after Monaco’s speech, Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri provided a few additional details in a speech also delivered at the ABA’s 39th National Institute on White Collar Crime.  Argentieri explained that the statutory authority for the whistleblower program is 28 U.S.C. § 524(c)(1)(C), which establishes a fund the Attorney General may use for the “payment of awards for information or assistance leading to a civil or criminal forfeiture.”  She also stated that whistleblower rewards under the DOJ program would likely be limited to cases where the ultimate sanction against the wrongdoer reaches a certain threshold, similar to the $1 million threshold established for the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission whistleblower programs.  Lastly, Argentieri announced that the design of the program would be led by the DOJ’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.

Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco’s Keynote Remarks at the American Bar Association’s 39th National Institute on White Collar Crime | Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri Delivers Keynote Speech at the American Bar Association’s 39th National Institute on White Collar Crime