An insightful look into the workings of the SEC Whistleblower Program. Is it any surprise that Whistleblowers who are represented by securities attorneys might do better presenting tips than those who are represented by non-securities attorneys?
A Look Inside the SEC Whistleblower Program
Within the SEC, there exists a program that often remains shrouded in mystery but plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of financial markets – the SEC Whistleblower Program. In this article, we delve deep into the inner workings of this program, shedding light on its significance and how it operates.
Understanding the SEC Whistleblower Program
What is the SEC Whistleblower Program?
The SEC Whistleblower Program is a vital component of the U.S. regulatory landscape, established under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. Its primary purpose is to encourage individuals with insider information about securities law violations to come forward and report their findings to the SEC.
Why is it Important?
Maintaining the integrity and fairness of financial markets is paramount to the SEC’s mission. The program serves as a crucial tool in achieving this goal by incentivizing individuals to blow the whistle on fraudulent activities, thereby helping the SEC take appropriate enforcement actions.
How Does it Work?
Reporting Tips and Information
Individuals, often employees or insiders with knowledge of wrongdoing, can submit tips and information about potential securities law violations to the SEC. These tips can encompass a wide range of violations, from insider trading to accounting fraud.
The Process of Whistleblowing
Step 1: Gathering Information
Whistleblowers often start by gathering substantial evidence of the alleged securities law violations. This may involve collecting documents, emails, or other forms of proof that support their claims.
Step 2: Submitting a Tip
Once armed with evidence, whistleblowers can submit their tips to the SEC. The submission can be done anonymously through legal representation, if desired, to ensure protection. For the greatest chance of success, the submission needs to be clear, concise, and fact-driven, with documents, if possible.
Step 3: SEC Evaluation
Upon receiving a tip, the SEC evaluates its credibility and potential for enforcement action. If the information appears substantial, an investigation is initiated.
Step 4: Investigation
SEC investigates the allegations, conducting interviews, reviewing documents, and collaborating with other regulatory bodies if necessary. The goal is to determine the extent of the violations and gather enough evidence to support enforcement actions.
Step 5: Enforcement Action
If the investigation uncovers evidence of securities law violations, the SEC takes appropriate enforcement actions. These actions can range from imposing fines on individuals or organizations to barring them from participating in the securities industry.
Under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, there are several key whistleblower protections in place to encourage individuals to come forward and report potential securities law violations without fear of retaliation. These protections are crucial for fostering a culture of accountability and transparency in the financial industry. Here are some of the whistleblower protections provided by Dodd-Frank:
Anonymity: Whistleblowers have the option to remain anonymous when reporting violations to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This anonymity is maintained throughout the investigation process, shielding whistleblowers from potential backlash or retaliation by their employers.
Anti-Retaliation Provisions: Dodd-Frank includes robust anti-retaliation measures. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against whistleblowers for reporting securities law violations. Whistleblowers are protected from adverse employment actions, such as firing, demotion, harassment, or discrimination, as a result of their disclosures.
Private Right of Action: Dodd-Frank allows whistleblowers to bring a private legal action if they experience retaliation. This means that whistleblowers can file a lawsuit against their employers if they believe they have been subjected to unlawful retaliation.
Monetary Awards: Perhaps one of the most compelling incentives for whistleblowers is the potential for monetary awards. Whistleblowers who provide information that leads to successful SEC enforcement actions with sanctions exceeding $1 million are eligible for substantial monetary rewards. These awards typically range from 10% to 30% of the collected sanctions.
Confidentiality Protections: The SEC is required to keep the identity of whistleblowers confidential, even from other government agencies. This ensures that whistleblowers can safely report violations without exposing themselves to potential harm.
Exclusivity: Dodd-Frank establishes the SEC as the exclusive avenue for reporting securities law violations. This means that individuals with information about violations are encouraged to report directly to the SEC rather than going through internal company channels.
Statute of Limitations: The Act provides whistleblowers with a generous statute of limitations, allowing them to report violations up to six years after the violation occurred. This extended window provides ample time for individuals to gather evidence and come forward.
To be eligible for an award, the enforcement action resulting from your provided information must yield sanctions exceeding $1 million. Your potential award will range from 10% to 30% of these sanctions. It’s worth noting that this amount can be adjusted upwards based on several factors, including the significance of your information, the effectiveness of the enforcement action against the law violators, and the SEC’s interest in discouraging similar misconduct.
These whistleblower protections under Dodd-Frank are designed to empower individuals to act as watchdogs in the financial industry. By offering anonymity, anti-retaliation measures, financial incentives, and legal safeguards, Dodd-Frank encourages individuals to report wrongdoing, ultimately contributing to a more transparent and accountable financial system.
Sallah Astarita & Cox has successfully represented clients in presenting their information and obtaining an award, all without any upfront costs or fees to the client. If you think you have information that could lead to a claim, call the firm at 212-509-6544 to speak to a whistleblower attorney.
Mark Astarita is a nationally recognized securities attorney, who represents investors, financial professionals and firms in securities litigation, arbitration and regulatory matters, including SEC and FINRA investigations and enforcement proceedings.
He is a partner in the national securities law firm Sallah Astarita & Cox, LLC, and the founder of The Securities Law Home Page - SECLaw.com, which was one of the first legal topic sites on the Internet. It went online in 1995 and is updated daily with news, commentary and securities law related links.