The SEC announced on October 1, 2013 that it awarded a whistleblower over $14 million for original information that led to the recovery of “substantial investor funds.” The whistleblower program was established after the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act, which rewards individuals who provide original information that leads to sanctions exceeding $1 million. The SEC has the authority to award from 10 to 30 percent of the money collected in a case.
One of the most important things about information provided by a whistleblower is that such information is “original.” This means that the information must be derived from the whistleblower’s original knowledge or analysis, that it is not known by the SEC from some other source, and that it is not derived solely from a publicly available source, including allegations made in a different judicial setting.
The size of the current award appears to indicate two things: first, the quality of information and extent of cooperation provided by the whistleblower to the SEC, whose identity remains confidential; and second, the SEC’s eagerness to grow and benefit from the whistleblower program. Without disclosing the size of the award, in its Order, the SEC noted that the size of the award was based on the significance of the information provided by the whistleblower and the assistance the whistleblower provided to the SEC in the action, in part. The SEC, under its new Chairperson Mary Jo White, has shown a desire to become more aggressive in pursuing individuals and to get companies to admit to wrongdoing. It is no surprise then, that the SEC appears to be providing increasingly larger awards to whistleblowers, to provide individuals the incentive to waive red flags about wrongdoing at a time when the SEC may be able to recover and/or safeguard investor funds.