SEC Whistleblower Awards

What’s a Whistleblower Award?

An eligible whistleblower, voluntarily reporting original information to the SEC, can earn an award of 10-30% of monetary sanctions levied in an action where the sanctions exceed $1 million. To date, the largest award for a single case was $83 million (Yes, our clients!) and for a covered action with two cases: $114 million.

How an SEC Whistleblower Award is Determined

Scenario: Jane tipped the SEC to a foreign bribery scheme that ultimately led to an enforcement action in which the agency collected a $50 million penalty from The International Widget Company. If she meets all the eligibility requirements, Jane will receive an award between $5 million - $15 million!

According to the program rules, if the same information leads to related proceedings before other state and federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies, individuals can be eligible for additional awards from the monetary sanctions collected in those cases.

For instance, in a separate criminal proceeding initiated by Jane’s information, the Department of Justice fined The International Widget Company an additional $25 million. Jane would be entitled to an additional award of $2.5 million - $7.5 million.

Jane’s total whistleblower award: Between $7.5 million - $22.5 million

How do I apply for an award?

SEC whistleblowers are required to mail or fax a completed application for an award, SEC Form WB-APP, to the SEC Office of the Whistleblower. As a courtesy, the SEC Staff often notifies SEC whistleblowers or their legal counsel about the successful enforcement action and the opportunity to apply for an award. That being said, SEC whistleblowers are solely responsible for monitoring the SEC’s Notices of Covered Actions, so they don’t miss the award application deadline.

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How long will I have to wait before I receive an award?

Typically, after the SEC posts the Notice of Eligibility, it takes 2-3 years for SEC whistleblowers to receive their monetary award. To expedite the process, the SEC Office of the Whistleblower has hired several additional staff members. Once the current backlog has been addressed, we expect the standard wait time for SEC whistleblowers will be reduced. There are factors that can affect the time, such as the nature and size of the related enforcement action, whether there are other award applicants and whether one or more applicants appeal the Commission’s award determination.

SEC Whistleblower Awards to Date

Why do some whistleblower cases get denied or awards reduced?

Even with actionable intelligence relating to a federal securities violation, in some cases, the SEC may decrease an award or even deem a whistleblower ineligible to receive an award entirely. The program rules lay out various factors that may decrease an award, including: whether the whistleblower played a role in the underlying wrongdoing; if the whistleblower interfered with an employer’s internal compliance systems; or, if there was an unreasonable delay in reporting the violation to the SEC.

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Facts & Figures

Awards Denied
Named one of the top whistleblower practices/attorneys in the country by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR and The New Yorker
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