April 16, 2021

SEC issues second highest whistleblower award to joint claimants

On April 16, 2021, the US Securities and Exchange Commission announced the agency’s second largest award in the program’s history according to Jane Norbert, the outgoing Chief of the Office of the Whistleblower.  The highest award of $114 million was issued in October of 2020.  The newest payout of more than $50 million was awarded to joint whistleblowers who submitted their tips to the SEC using the same counsel and providing almost identical whistleblower applications.  The SEC reports that the claimants provided original information that revealed highly complex transactions that would have been difficult for the SEC to detect without these voluntary tips – tips that prompted the SEC to open the investigation.  The SEC also praised both whistleblowers for providing “exemplary assistance” throughout the investigation that resulted in the return of tens of millions of dollars to harmed investors.

A third claimant was denied an award because the tips provided did not lead to the successful enforcement of a covered action.  The SEC determined that, while that claimant did submit tips to the regional office of a different federal agency, none of these tips led authorities to launch an investigation, and SEC staff confirmed that they never received or relied upon the information that the third claimant had provided.

The SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower has awarded to date approximately $812 million to 151 individuals since the program’s launch in 2012.  In September 2020 at the start of fiscal year 2021, the SEC reported that 2020 was a record-breaking year with 39 individual awards that totaled approximately $175 million.  According to Norbert, fiscal year 2021 is on track to break more records with more than a quarter of a billion dollars already awarded to whistleblowers in the first seven months.

SEC Press Release | SEC Order | SEC Press Release (September 2020)