New SEC Whistleblower Rules Become Effective

Today, the SEC‘s new whistleblower program under the Dodd-Frank Act becomes effective, and is on the minds of many New York securities lawyers. These new rules were devised in such a way to provide an incentive for would-be whistleblowers to come forward and assist the SEC with investigations of possible securities law violations. Under these new rules, if an individual provides the SEC with original information about possible federal securities laws violations, and that information leads to a recovery by the SEC of $1 million or more, that individual would be entitled to receive up to 30% of the sanctions received by the SEC.

Under the new rules, internal reporting is encouraged, but it is not required. Individuals may instead go directly to the SEC. However, the value of internal compliance programs is addressed in the release, and there are incentives in place in the new rules to urge whistleblowers to report internally first.

There are also a few groups of individual who, for public policy reasons, are excluded from participation under the new rules. These include: compliance and internal audit personnel; officers, directors, trustees and partners who only discover the violations as a result of internal compliance procedures; public auditors who learn of the violations in the course of an engagement. However, these people may be eligible under certain circumstances, such as: they reasonably believe that disclosure is necessary to prevent the company from causing substantial injury to the property or financial interests of the company or investors; they reasonably believe that the company is impeding an investigation of the misconduct; or at least 120 days have passed since the initial internal report. Attorneys are also excluded, provided that they learned of the violations directly from attorney-client communications.

The new rules also provide substantial protection for individuals who do come forward, in order to prevent retaliation from their employer. Even if a whistleblower’s tip only relates to possible violations and the SEC investigation is unsuccessful, that individual is now protected from retaliation by a new express private right of action. Whistleblowers may sue their employer and seek remedies including two times their back pay and reinstatement. However, this protection is only for individuals who go directly to the SEC, not for those who report only internally.

Given these new rules, it is now much safer for individuals who have information about suspected federal securities law violations to come forward, and whistleblowers now have the opportunity to be compensated for their efforts in aiding the SEC. Yet it is important for potential whistleblowers to ensure that they proceed through the appropriate channels. For that reason, individuals who wish to contact the SEC to report securities violations should consult with an attorney before doing so to ensure that their rights are protected.

Malecki Law offers a substantial background in securities fraud and employment litigation, including whistleblower issues. If you believe that you may be a whistleblower, please call 212-943-1233 for a consultation.

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