In 2011, a former executive at Monsanto, a large publicly traded company, raised concerns that the company was violating accounting rules and misstating its earnings. Despite being aware of these issues, Monsanto failed to remedy the accounting violations and continued to misstate earnings. Undeterred, the former executive reported his concerns to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) through its new whistleblower program. Armed with this information, the SEC opened an investigation into Monsanto’s accounting practices and discovered that the company had indeed violated accounting rules and misstated company earnings for three years. Monsanto agreed to pay an $80 million penalty to settle the charges and the former executive received a $22 million award from the SEC.
Overview of the SEC Whistleblower Program
The SEC Whistleblower Program was established to incentive whistleblowers, like the former Monsanto executive, to report violations of the federal securities laws to the SEC. Under the program, whistleblowers may be eligible for an award when they provide the SEC with original information that leads to successful enforcement actions with monetary sanctions totaling more than $1 million. A whistleblower may receive an award of between 10-30 percent of the monetary sanctions collected.
The SEC requests specific, timely, and credible information about any violation of the federal securities laws. The most common whistleblower tips relate to corporate disclosures and financials, offering fraud and market manipulation. Other notable areas of whistleblower tips relate to insider trading, trading and pricing schemes, foreign bribery, unregistered offerings, and EB-5 investment fraud.
Under the program, whistleblowers may submit tips anonymously to the SEC if represented by an attorney. Moreover, most whistleblowers, regardless of citizenship or position within a company, are eligible (or can become eligible) for an award under the program. This includes internal auditors, external auditors, officers, directors, and even individuals involved in the wrongdoing.
Since 2011, the SEC Whistleblower Program has received over 18,000 tips and has awarded more than $150 million to whistleblowers. Enforcement actions resulting from whistleblower tips have enabled the SEC to recover nearly $1 billion in financial remedies from wrongdoers, much of which has been returned to investors.
Free eBook on the SEC Whistleblower Program
The rules implementing the SEC Whistleblower Program are complex and there are many potential pitfalls for whistleblowers. Zuckerman Law has recently released a free eBook about the program that highlights important steps that whistleblowers should take to increase the likelihood of recovering and maximizing an SEC whistleblower award. The eBook covers the following topics:
Overview of the SEC Whistleblower Program
- What is the SEC Whistleblower Program?
- Can I submit an anonymous tip to the SEC Whistleblower Office?
- What employment protections are available for SEC whistleblowers?
- What violations qualify for an SEC whistleblower award?
- What are the largest SEC whistleblower awards?
Whistleblowers Eligible for an Award
- Who is an eligible SEC whistleblower?
- Can I submit a claim if I had involvement in the fraud or misconduct?
- Can I submit a tip if I agreed to a confidentiality provision in an employment/severance agreement?
- Can compliance personnel, auditors, officers or directors qualify for an SEC whistleblower award?
Reporting to the SEC and Maximizing Award Percentage
- When is the best time to report the fraud or misconduct to the SEC?
- Do I have to report the violation to my company before reporting the violation to the SEC?
- Can I submit an SEC Whistleblower claim if the SEC already has an open investigation into the matter?
- How do I submit a tip to the SEC?
- What type of evidence should I provide to the SEC?
- What factors does the SEC consider when determining the amount of the award?
After Reporting to the SEC
- What happens after I submit a tip to the SEC?
- How long does it take to receive an SEC whistleblower award?
Click here to download your free copy of the eBook SEC Whistleblower Program: Tips from SEC Whistleblower Attorneys to Maximize an SEC Whistleblower Award.
About the Author: Jason Zuckerman represents whistleblowers nationwide in whistleblower rewards and whistleblower retaliation claims. Recently Matt Stock and Zuckerman issued an ebook titled SEC Whistleblower Program: Tips from SEC Whistleblower Attorneys to Maximize an SEC Whistleblower Award.