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Experienced and Effective SEC Whistleblower Lawyers

SEC Whistleblower Reward Program

Since 2012, the SEC has issued more than $1 billion in awards to whistleblowers, which includes awards to our clients totaling millions of dollars. The top SEC whistleblower attorneys can provide critical guidance to whistleblowers throughout this process to protect their identities and increase the likelihood that they not only obtain, but maximize, their awards.

Under the SEC Whistleblower Reward Program, whistleblowers can submit tips anonymously to the SEC through an attorney and be eligible for an award for exposing any material violation of the federal securities laws, including:

The SEC has jurisdiction over a wide range of industries and entities – both public and private.

Best SEC Whistleblower Lawyers and Attorneys If you have original information that you would like to report to the SEC Office of the Whistleblower, contact the Director of our SEC Whistleblower Practice at mstock@zuckermanlaw.com or call our leading SEC whistleblower lawyers at (202) 930-5901 or (202) 262-8959. All inquiries are confidential.

In conjunction with our courageous clients, our SEC whistleblower lawyers have helped the SEC halt multi-million dollar investment schemes, expose violations at large publicly traded companies, and return funds to defrauded investors.

In contrast to many other SEC whistleblower law firms, our team of SEC whistleblower lawyers includes a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner with substantial experience auditing public companies and investigating complex fraud schemes. We understand the many challenges that the SEC faces in investigating our clients’ disclosures and take measures to increase the likelihood that the SEC will be able to effectively pursue the disclosures that our SEC whistleblower lawyers provide on behalf of our clients. Recently, U.S. News and Best Lawyers® named Zuckerman Law a Tier 1 firm in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Click below to hear SEC whistleblower attorney Matthew Stock’s tips for SEC whistleblowers:

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SEC Whistleblower Lawyers’ Guide to SEC Whistleblower Awards

Under the SEC Whistleblower Program, the SEC will issue awards to whistleblowers who provide original information that leads to enforcement actions with total monetary sanctions (penalties, disgorgement, and interest) in excess of $1 million. In exchange for the valuable information, a whistleblower may receive an award of between 10% and 30% of the total monetary sanctions collected.

In determining an award percentage, the SEC considers the particular facts and circumstances of each case. For example, positive factors that may increase an award percentage include the significance of the information, the level of assistance provided by the whistleblower and the whistleblower’s attorney, and the law enforcement interests at stake. On the other hand, negative factors that may decrease an award percentage include unreasonable delay in reporting the violation to the SEC and the culpability or involvement of the whistleblower in the violation. For more information, see the SEC Office of the Whistleblower’s Guidance for Whistleblower Award Determinations and Approach to Processing Whistleblower Award Claims.

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Since 2012, the SEC Whistleblower Office has issued more than $1 billion in awards to whistleblowers. The largest SEC whistleblower awards to date are $114 million and $110 million. See some of the SEC whistleblower cases that have resulted in multi-million dollar awards.

Benefits of Retaining an Effective SEC Whistleblower Attorney

The path to receiving an SEC whistleblower award is lengthy and complex. Throughout this process, an SEC whistleblower attorney can provide critical guidance to whistleblowers on a wide range of issues.

Submit Tips Anonymously

If represented by an attorney, a whistleblower may submit a tip anonymously to the SEC. In certain circumstances, a whistleblower may remain anonymous, even to the SEC, until an award determination. However, even at the time of a reward, a whistleblower’s identity is not made available to the public. An experienced SEC whistleblower lawyer will be able to skillfully guide a whistleblower through the process, maximizing the likelihood that the whistleblower’s identity is not revealed to unauthorized parties. In addition, an SEC whistleblower attorney can help protect whistleblowers who experience retaliation after disclosing fraud or other violations to their employers or the SEC.

Eligibility for an Award

Most individuals, regardless of citizenship, can become eligible to receive awards under the SEC Whistleblower Program. This includes high-level corporate insiders and compliance personnel. The eligibility analysis, however, differs depending on the whistleblower’s relation to the company and how they obtained the information. An SEC whistleblower attorney can help a whistleblower determine whether they need to take any actions prior to submitting a tip to be eligible for an award.

Moreover, even if a whistleblower has already submitted a tip to the SEC, an SEC whistleblower attorney can ensure that the whistleblower followed the required procedures to be eligible for an award. A failure to comply with these rules could render a whistleblower ineligible for an award, even if they provided original information to the SEC that lead to a successful enforcement action. The SEC recently amended the rules of the program to allow whistleblowers who originally failed to comply with certain procedures to fix, or “perfect,” their SEC whistleblower tips to become eligible for awards. For example, if a whistleblower first learns of the required filing procedures after retaining an attorney in connection with their submission, the rules allow the whistleblower to submit a properly executed tip within 30 days to become eligible for an award.

A skillful eligibility analysis may be the difference between a multimillion-dollar whistleblower award and no award at all.

Increase the Likelihood That the SEC Acts on a Whistleblower’s Tip

Since 2011, the SEC Office of the Whistleblower has received more than 52,200 whistleblower tips. The SEC has limited resources and can only investigate and pursue enforcement actions for a fraction of the tips received. An SEC whistleblower attorney can take certain steps to increase the likelihood that the SEC acts on a whistleblower’s tip. For example, an SEC whistleblower attorney can assist a whistleblower by investigating their case, identifying the key violations, and preparing a persuasive submission that will be more likely to cause the SEC to open an investigation. An SEC whistleblower lawyer can also identify and address potential evidentiary issues, which frequently arise in SEC whistleblower cases. Finally, as a practical matter, the SEC is more likely to act on a whistleblower’s tip if they receive a compelling submission from an SEC whistleblower law firm that has a track record of successfully representing whistleblowers.

As noted in an annual report of the SEC OWB, “Whistleblower tips that are specific, credible, and timely, and that are accompanied by corroborating documentary evidence, are more likely to be forwarded to investigative staff for further analysis or investigation. For instance, if the tip identifies individuals involved in the misconduct, provides examples of particular fraudulent transactions, or points to non-public materials evidencing a fraud, the tip is more likely to be assigned to Enforcement staff for investigation.” 

Maximize an SEC Whistleblower Award

When determining the amount of an award, the SEC considers various factors that may increase or decrease an award percentage of between 10% and 30% of the total monetary sanctions collected. An SEC whistleblower attorney can help a whistleblower leverage these factors to maximize their award. In addition, an SEC whistleblower attorney can determine whether a whistleblower is eligible for a “related action” award, which could significantly increase the amount of an award. Finally, if the SEC acts on a whistleblower’s information and brings a successful enforcement action in excess of $1 million, an SEC whistleblower lawyer can help prepare a detailed application for an award that makes a compelling case for a high award percentage of the total monetary sanctions collected.

Importantly, these benefits represent only a handful of the countless ways in which an SEC whistleblower attorney can assist whistleblowers before the SEC. For more information, contact the SEC whistleblower attorneys at Zuckerman Law today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

SEC Whistleblower Lawyers’ Tips to Qualify for an SEC Whistleblower Award

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For more information about the SEC whistleblower process, see the SEC’s investor bulletin on SEC investigations.

SEC Whistleblower Protection Against Retaliation

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Whistleblowers are also afforded substantial protection against retaliation. Learn more about anti-retaliation protections for SEC whistleblowers under the Dodd-Frank Act and Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the tools that our experienced whistleblower attorneys employ to combat retaliation.

SEC Whistleblower Office: FY 2020 the Best to Date

The SEC Whistleblower Program continued its remarkable run of success in FY 2020. According to the SEC Whistleblower Office’s 2020 Annual Report to Congress, the office received more than 6,900 tips in the fiscal year. This is the highest number of tips the office has received in one year. Most whistleblower tips related to corporate disclosures and financials (25%), offering fraud (16%) and market manipulation (14%). Other notable areas of tips included insider trading, trading and pricing schemes, foreign bribery and other FCPA violations, unregistered securities offerings and fraud in connection with initial coin offerings (ICOs) and cryptocurrencies. Since 2011, the SEC Whistleblower Office has received more than 40,200 tips that have enabled the SEC to recover more than $4.8 billion in monetary sanctions from wrongdoers.

Consistent with prior years, the states that yielded the highest number of tips in FY 2020 were California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Other states that reported a high number of tips were Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington. The SEC Whistleblower Office also received tips from 78 foreign countries in FY 2020. The highest number of tips were from whistleblowers in Canada, the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China.

Notably, whistleblowers need not be U.S. citizens to be eligible for SEC whistleblower awards and the SEC whistleblower attorneys at Zuckerman Law can represent SEC whistleblowers from any state or country. According to the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index, a majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption. This finding is consistent with PwC’s 2018 fraud survey, which reported the highest fraud levels in organizations in the past 20 years, and the ACFE’s 2021 fraud survey, which reported that 51% of organizations have uncovered more fraud since the pandemic and 71% of anti-fraud professionals expect the level of fraud to increase over the next year. As the SEC continues to promote worldwide public awareness of the SEC Whistleblower Program, we expect to see an increase in whistleblower tips and awards in the coming years.

The report also indicates that the SEC Whistleblower Program is gaining momentum. In particular, the SEC Office of the Whistleblower, which first opened its doors in August 2011, has issued a majority of the whistleblower awards in the past several years:

Notably, FY 2021 is shaping up to be the best year in the SEC Whistleblower Program’s history. On October 22, 2020, the SEC issued the largest whistleblower award in the program’s history of $114 million. In addition, according to the SEC’s 2020 Agency Report, the SEC recognized a $255 million contingent liability for potential whistleblower awards to be paid in FY 2021. In short, it appears that the program is now firing on all cylinders. For more information about the SEC Whistleblower Program, see our Whistleblower Page.

Largest SEC Whistleblower Awards

Since the inception of the SEC Whistleblower Program, whistleblower tips have enabled the SEC to order more than $3.5 billion in monetary sanctions against wrongdoers. The table below identifies some of the largest SEC whistleblower awards that the SEC has issued:

Whistleblower AwardDateBasis for Whistleblower Award
$114 millionOctober 22, 2020On October 22, 2020, the SEC announced its largest-ever whistleblower award of $114 million to a whistleblower whose information and "substantial, ongoing assistance" led to the successful enforcement of SEC and related actions. The award consisted of an approximately $52 million award in connection with the SEC case and an approximately $62 million award arising out of the related actions by another agency.
$110 millionSeptember 15, 2021On September 15, 2021, the SEC announced its second-largest whistleblower award of $110 million. According to the press release announcing the award, the award consists of an approximately $40 million award in connection with an SEC case and an approximately $70 million award arising out of related actions by another agency. With the award, the SEC Whistleblower Program has now paid more than $1 billion in awards to whistleblowers.
$50 millionApril 15, 2021On April 15, 2021, the SEC announced a $50 million award to joint whistleblowers. The press release announcing the award stated, "The joint whistleblowers provided exemplary assistance to the SEC staff during the investigation, including meeting with staff numerous times and providing voluminous detailed documents. The information provided by these individuals resulted in the return of tens of millions of dollars to harmed investors."
$50 millionJune 4, 2020On June 4, 2020, the SEC announced its then largest-ever whistleblower award of $50 million to a whistleblower. In the press release announcing the award, the Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, Jane Norberg, stated: "This award is the largest individual whistleblower award announced by the SEC since the inception of the program, and brings the total awarded to whistleblowers by the SEC to over $500 million, including over $100 million in this fiscal year alone. Whistleblowers have proven to be a critical tool in the enforcement arsenal to combat fraud and protect investors."
$50 and $33 millionMarch 19, 2018On March 19, 2018, the SEC announced an award of $50 million to two whistleblowers and an award of $33 million to another whistleblower. See the SEC's order determining the whistleblowers' award claims here.
$39 and $15 millionSeptember 6, 2018On September 6, 2018, the SEC announced its second-largest SEC whistleblower award to date of $39 million. According to the SEC's Press Release, the whistleblowers provided critical information and continued assistance that helped the SEC bring an important enforcement action.
$37 and $13 millionMarch 26, 2019On March 26, 2019, the SEC announced its third-highest SEC whistleblower award to date of $37 million. Another whistleblower received a $13 million award in the same action, totaling $50 million in awards to the two whistleblowers.
$36 millionSeptember 24, 2021The Securities and Exchange Commission announced an award of approximately $36 million to a whistleblower "whose information and assistance significantly contributed to the success of an SEC enforcement action as well as actions by another federal agency."

According to the SEC's press release announcing the award, "the whistleblower provided crucial information on an illegal scheme to the SEC's and the other agency's staffs, which included multiple meetings and the identification of key documents and witnesses. Under the SEC's whistleblower program, individuals who provide critical information to other agencies may be eligible for a related action award if they are also eligible for an award in the underlying SEC action."
$30 millionSeptember 22, 2014A foreign whistleblower came to the SEC with “information about an ongoing fraud that would have been very difficult to detect.”

This award underscores that non-US citizens are eligible whistleblowers in the SEC Whistleblower Program.
$28 millionMay 19, 2021On May 19, 2021, the SEC announced an award to a whistleblower totaling more than $28 million in connection with an SEC enforcement action and a related action by another federal agency. The whistleblower’s information caused both the SEC and the other agency to open investigations that resulted in significant enforcement actions.
$28 millionNovember 3, 2020The SEC issued a $28 million award to a whistleblower who "provided significant information that aided the SEC in bringing a successful enforcement action." According to the press release announcing the award, the whistleblower "internally reported information that prompted the company to initiate an internal investigation, and saved the staff time and resources by providing testimony and identifying a key witness."

$27 millionMay 17, 2021The SEC awarded almost $27 million to two whistleblowers who provided SEC staff with "new information and assistance during an existing investigation, including meeting with the staff in person on multiple days." According to the SEC's press release, the whistleblowers' "information and cooperation helped the Commission bring the enforcement action, which resulted in the return of millions of dollars to harmed investors."
$27 millionApril 16, 2020The SEC issued a $27 million award to a whistleblower who alerted the agency to misconduct occurring, in part, overseas. After providing the tip to the SEC, the whistleblower provided critical investigative leads that advanced the investigation and saved significant SEC resources. For more information, click here.
$23 millionJune 2, 2021The SEC issued two awards of approximately $13 million and $10 million to two whistleblowers whose information and assistance led to successful SEC and related actions. According to the SEC's press release: "The whistleblowers’ information and assistance led to multiple successful enforcement actions related to a complex and fraudulent scheme involving multiple individuals and tens of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains.”
$22 millionMay 10, 2021On May 20, 2021, the SEC issued awards totaling $22 million to two whistleblowers whose information and assistance were of "crucial importance to successful SEC enforcement actions brought against a financial services firm." According to the SEC's press release: "The first whistleblower received an award of $18 million, while the second whistleblower received a $4 million award [because] the first whistleblower was the initial source of the investigation while the second whistleblower submitted information much later after the investigation was already underway."
$22 millionAugust 30, 2016A former financial executive at Monsanto exposed weaknesses in the company’s internal controls that failed to account for millions of dollars in rebates. Monsanto agreed to settle the allegations of accounting fraud for $80 million.

Importantly, external auditors, internal auditors, accountants and other compliance personnel may be eligible for awards under the SEC Whistleblower Program. Indeed, they are often best positioned to discover wrongdoing.
$20 millionNovember 14, 2016According to the SEC's order determining the whistleblower awards, three whistleblowers applied for awards related to the enforcement action. The SEC denied two of the whistleblowers' applications because they did not provide "original information," and issued the full $20 million award to one whistleblower.
$18 millionApril 28, 2020The SEC announced an award of more than $18 million to a whistleblower whose tip prompted an enforcement action that returned millions of dollars to retail investors.
$17 millionJune 9, 2016A company insider “substantially advanced the agency’s investigation and ultimate enforcement action.”

This award highlights that whistleblowers may receive an award if they provide original information regarding an open SEC investigation if it significantly contributes to the success of the action.
$16 millionNovember 30, 2017Two whistleblowers received awards of more than $8 million each for providing the SEC with critical information that led to a successful enforcement action.

This award demonstrates how whistleblowers can receive an increased award percentage for providing ongoing, extensive, and timely assistance to the SEC. As detailed in the SEC's order, the second whistleblower received the same $8 million award as the first whistleblower by providing additional significant information and ongoing assistance to the SEC that "enabled the Enforcement staff to more fully and quickly understand the misconduct and to assess the legal consequences... [which] saved a substantial amount of time and resources in the Investigation."
$14 million September 30, 2013The whistleblower exposed a fraudulent offering that targeted foreign investors who sought to gain a legal pathway to citizenship through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program.
$9.2 million February 23, 2021The whistleblower provided significant information about an ongoing fraud to the SEC that enabled a large amount of money to be returned to investors harmed by the fraud. In addition, the whistleblower information led to successful related actions by the DOJ, one of which was a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) or deferred prosecution agreement (DPA). The award marks the first SEC whistleblower "related action" award based on a NPA or DPA with the DOJ since amendments to the SEC’s whistleblower program rules became effective on Dec. 7, 2020.
$7 millionJanuary 23, 2017Three whistleblowers split an award of more than $7 million after helping the SEC prosecute an investment scheme.

One whistleblower provided information that was the primary reason that the SEC opened an investigation. That whistleblower received a more than $4 million award. Two other whistleblowers jointly provided new information during the SEC’s investigation that significantly contributed to the success of the SEC’s enforcement action. Those two whistleblowers will split more than $3 million.
$5.5 millionJanuary 6, 2017An anonymous whistleblower orally provided the SEC with critical information about ongoing securities fraud. Generally, the SEC requires that whistleblower provide information “in writing.” However, the SEC waived that requirement in this case due to “highly unusual circumstances” and awarded the whistleblower more than $5.5 million for the information.

This award marks the third time that the SEC has deemed it appropriate to waive a procedural requirement. The most recent exception occurred on July 27, 2017, when the SEC issued a $1.7 million whistleblower award to an insider who failed to comply with all of the whistleblower program's rules and had some culpability in the fraud. The former chief of the SEC whistleblower office said that these awards underscore the SEC’s discretionary authority to do what justice requires.
$5 millionApril 20, 2020The SEC issued a $5 million award to a whistleblower who provided significant information that led to a successful enforcement action. According to the SEC, the whistleblower provided critical evidence of wrongdoing, which helped save time and resources in the SEC’s investigation, and the whistleblower suffered a unique hardship as a result of raising concerns internally.
$5 millionMay 17, 2016A former company insider’s detailed tip led the agency to uncover securities violations that would have been nearly impossible for it to detect but for the whistleblower’s information. The SEC's press release noted that employees are often best positioned to witness wrongdoing.
$4 million April 25, 2017The SEC issued the $4 million award to an anonymous whistleblower who provided information that led another governmental authority to a successful enforcement action resulting in significant monetary sanctions. This award highlights that SEC whistleblowers may be eligible for awards for "related actions."
$4 million September 30, 2016The SEC issued the award to an anonymous whistleblower for “alter[ing] the agency to a fraud.”

The lack of publicly available information about the anonymous whistleblower and the enforcement action underscores how serious the SEC is about protecting whistleblower's. Under the program, whistleblower may report anonymously through an SEC whistleblower attorney.
$3.8 millionJuly 14, 2020The SEC issued a $3.8 million award to a whistleblower that provided new information
during the course of an ongoing investigation into a fraudulent scheme. According to the order announcing the award, the information that the whistleblower provided “helped the Commission halt an ongoing fraud and return millions of dollars to harmed investors.”
$3.5 millionMay 13, 2016The whistleblower “bolstered an ongoing investigation with additional evidence of wrongdoing” which helped the SEC during settlement discussions with the company.

This award underscores how whistleblowers may still receive an award even if the SEC already has an open investigation into a matter.

SEC Whistleblower Attorneys: Top FAQs

The SEC whistleblower process is lengthy and complex. See below for articles responding to frequently asked questions by SEC whistleblowers.

  1. What is the SEC Whistleblower Program?
  2. What is the SEC Office of the Whistleblower?
  3. What are the largest SEC whistleblower awards?
  4. Can I submit a tip anonymously to the SEC Office of the Whistleblower?
  5. What exactly does anonymous whistleblowing entail?
  6. How can I perfect my SEC whistleblower tip to qualify for an award?
  7. What employment protections are available for SEC whistleblowers?
  8. What violations qualify for an SEC whistleblower award?
  9. Can the SEC bring enforcement actions against international schemes?
  10. Who is an “eligible” SEC whistleblower?
  11. Can compliance personnel, auditors, officers or directors qualify for SEC whistleblower awards?
  12. Can I submit a tip to the SEC if I had some involvement in the fraud or misconduct?
  13. Can culpable whistleblowers qualify for SEC whistleblower awards?
  14. Do I have to report a potential violation to my company before reporting it to the SEC?
  15. What type of evidence should I provide to the SEC?
  16. Can I use confidential company documents to expose fraud?
  17. Can I disclose secret recordings to the SEC?
  18. Can I submit a tip if I agreed to a confidentiality provision in an employment/severance agreement?
  19. When is the best time to report the fraud or misconduct to the SEC?
  20. What is “original information”?
  21. Can I submit an SEC Whistleblower claim if the SEC already has an open investigation into the matter?
  22. How might my information “lead to” a successful SEC enforcement action?
  23. What “related actions” qualify for an SEC whistleblower award?
  24. How do the best SEC whistleblower law firms advocate for whistleblowers?
  25. How do I choose the best whistleblower attorney?
  26. Why should I choose the Zuckerman Law to represent me in my SEC whistleblower claim?
  27. How do I submit a tip to the SEC Office of the Whistleblower?
  28. What happens after I submit a tip to the SEC Office of the Whistleblower?
  29. What is the full process for a whistleblower to receive an award?  
  30. What factors does the SEC consider when determining the amount of the award?
  31. What happens after I apply for an SEC whistleblower award?
  32. What is the process to appeal the SEC’s award determination?
  33. How long does it take to receive an SEC whistleblower award?

SEC Whistleblower Attorneys’ Tips to Navigate SEC Whistleblower Program’s Process

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As discussed in our articles, the SEC Whistleblower Program has become a very effective enforcement tool for the SEC.  But very few whistleblowers have received awards, which underscores the importance of having experienced counsel represent a whistleblower effectively at the SEC.

Top-Rated SEC Whistleblower Lawyers

We have assembled a team of leading SEC whistleblower lawyers to provide top-notch representation to SEC whistleblowers.  Recently Washingtonian magazine named two of our attorneys top whistleblower lawyers. U.S. News and Best Lawyers® have named Zuckerman Law a Tier 1 Law Firm in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.

SEC Whistleblower Office Annual Reports

The SEC Whistleblower Office provides an Annual Report to Congress on the SEC Whistleblower Program. See below for the annual reports:

SEC Areas of Enforcement

According to the FY 2020 report of the SEC Office of the Whistleblower, the three most common allegation types reported by SEC whistleblowers are

  • Corporate Disclosures and Financials;
  • Offering Fraud; and
  • Manipulation.

The SEC has broad jurisdiction to combat securities fraud. In FY 2020, the SEC brought a diverse mix of 405 enforcement actions, addressing a broad range of significant issues, including:

  • Securities Offerings;
  • Investment Company Issues;
  • Accounting and Auditing Violations;
  • Broker-Dealer Misconduct;
  • Insider Trading;
  • Market Manipulation; and
  • FCPA violations.

The enforcement actions enabled the SEC to obtain judgments and orders totaling more than $4.68 billion in FY 2020.

Resources for SEC Whistleblowers

For more information about the SEC Whistleblower Program, see the following resources:

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Tax Fraud Whistleblower Reward Lawyers

To discuss potential representation in a tax fraud whistleblower reward case with amounts in dispute in excess of $2 million, click here or contact the Director of our IRS whistleblower practice, Matthew Stock, at mstock@zuckermanlaw.com or (202) 930-5901 for a free confidential consultation.  Matthew Stock, an attorney, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), is routinely quoted in the media about whistleblower rewards programs.  Recently, BNA interviewed Stock about IRS whistleblower rewards.

IRS Whistleblower Reward Program

The IRS estimates that the United States loses more than $450 billion per year to tax evasion. To combat tax fraud, Congress enacted legislation providing robust incentives for whistleblowers to report tax fraud. Under 26 USC § 7623(b), the IRS is required to issue an award to tax whistleblowers of 15% to 30% of proceeds collected from tax fraud or tax underpayments if:

  • the whistleblower provides a tip that the IRS decides to take action on (a whistleblower cannot force the IRS to act on a tip);
  • the amount in dispute (the tax underpayment, including interest and penalties) exceeds $2 million (if the taxpayer is an individual, his or her gross income must exceed $200,000 for at least one of the  tax years in question); and
  • the IRS collects tax underpayments resulting from the action (including any related actions).

In enacting the IRS whistleblower bounty legislation, Congress provided mandatory awards to tax whistleblowers for high-quality tips. Section 7623(b) suggests a focus on large-scale tax fraud in that Congress removed the previous cap of $10 million on IRS whistleblower awards. Thus, if a whistleblower meets the requirements above, the whistleblower may be able to receive a substantial payout.

On July 2, 2019, the Taxpayer First Act was signed into law. The law provides tax whistleblowers, among other things, significant protections against retaliation. Read more about the tax whistleblower protection law here.

IRS Whistleblower Reward Program’s Success

Since 2007, the IRS Whistleblower Office has issued more than $931 million in awards to tax whistleblowers based on the collection of $5.7 billion in proceeds. During FY 2018 and FY 2019, the IRS awarded more than $430 million to tax fraud whistleblowers, and whistleblowers enabled the IRS to recover more than $2 billion. See the FY 2018 report of the IRS Whistleblower Program and the FY 2019 report of the IRS Whistleblower Program.

A denial of an award or reduction of up to 10% may be made in cases where the information provided to the IRS is:

  • brought by an individual who “planned and initiated” the actions that led to the underpayment of tax.
  • based on information derived from a judicial or administrative hearing; a governmental report, hearing, audit, or investigation; or the news media.

Tax whistleblower awards are subject to appeal to the U.S. Tax Court within 30 days of an IRS determination. For additional information on the process, click here.

If a tax whistleblower case does not meet the $2 million threshold (or cases involving individual taxpayers with gross income of less than $200,000), a whistleblower award may still pursue an award under section 7623(a). Under this section, the IRS may issue a discretionary award to a whistleblower for tips that lead to “detecting underpayments of tax, or bringing to trial and punishment persons guilty of violating the internal revenue laws or conniving at the same.” The awards under this program are a maximum of 15% of the proceeds collected, capped at $10 million. It should be stressed that awards under this program are discretionary, whereas awards under 7623(b) are mandatory.

IRS Whistleblower Awards Attorneys

Since the inception of the IRS Whistleblower Program, the IRS has issued more than $931 million in awards to whistleblowers. Since FY 2012, the IRS issued more than $841 million in awards:

Notable successes of the IRS Whistleblower Program include:

  • Bradley Birkenfeld was awarded $104 million after blowing the whistle on the Swiss Bank, UBS, for helping wealthy Americans hide their assets and evade taxes.
  • An unidentified whistleblower received $38 million for exposing a corporate tax avoidance scheme.
  • In Whistleblower 21276-13W v. CIR, two whistleblowers were issued an award for more than $17.5 million.  Importantly, the Tax Court’s Final Order confirmed that when the IRS determines an award based on “collected proceeds,” this encompasses all dollars collected by the U.S. government, including criminal penalties, FBAR, etc.
  • An unidentified accountant received $4.5 million after discovering a $20 million-plus tax liability at a Fortune 500 company. The accountant reported the liability and was subsequently ignored by the company.
  • Wall Street insider nets a $2 million reward after exposing an alleged tax avoidance scheme by manufacturer Illinois Tools Works. This was the third seven-figure reward from the IRS for the anonymous whistleblower.

IRS Whistleblower Process

The IRS Whistleblower Office has recently released Publication 5251 – The Whistleblower Claim Process.  The new publication provides general guidance on the tax whistleblower program and clarity on the types of information whistleblowers should provide to the office.  In addition, the publication explores what happens to claims after the IRS receives them, communication with the IRS after a submission, and a process timeline for claims.

Eligibility for Tax Whistleblower Reward

Under the new tax whistleblower statute, the IRS is required to issue a reward to tax whistleblowers of between 15% and 30% of collected proceeds from tax fraud or tax underpayments if:
  • the whistleblower provides specific and credible information that the IRS decides to take action on (a whistleblower cannot force the IRS to act on a tip);
  • the information relates to tax underpayments of over $2 million (or if the subject of the claim is an individual, his or her gross income must exceed $200,000 for at least one of the  tax years in question); and
  • the IRS collects tax underpayments resulting from the action (including any related actions).
In the publication, the IRS outlines the types of “specific and credible” information that whistleblowers should provide when submitting a tip. This includes:
  • A description of the amounts due, including a written narrative explaining the issue(s);
  • Information to support the narrative;
  • A description of the documents or supporting evidence not in the whistleblower’s possession or control; and
  • An explanation of how the whistleblower obtained the information and if there is any relationship to the subject of the claim.
It is important for tax whistleblowers to provide the best information available as it may support the increase of a reward percentage (among other factors).

Submitting a Whistleblower Tip to the IRS

Once a whistleblower submits a tip, the Whistleblower Office will determine if it has merit, and then forward the tip to the appropriate operating division for further development.  The publication notes this initial review generally takes 30-90 days and the Subject Matter Experts (SME) examination will take an additional 90 days.  During the SME’s examination, the whistleblower may be contacted to make sure that the IRS fully understands the information submitted by the whistleblower. Thereafter, if the IRS does not pursue the claim, the agency will send the whistleblower a claim denial letter.  Alternatively, if the IRS decides to pursue the claim, whistleblowers are able to receive updates from the IRS concerning the progress of the investigation. Under the Taxpayer’s First Act, which was enacted on July 1, 2019:
The Secretary shall disclose to an individual providing information relating to any purpose described in paragraph (1) or (2) of section 7623(a) the following: (i) Not later than 60 days after a case for which the individual has provided information has been referred for an audit or examination, a notice with respect to such referral. (ii) Not later than 60 days after a taxpayer with respect to whom the individual has provided information has made a payment of tax with respect to tax liability to which such information relates, a notice with respect to such payment. (iii) Subject to such requirements and conditions as are prescribed by the Secretary, upon a written request by such individual—

(I) information on the status and stage of any investigation or action related to such information, and

(II) in the case of a determination of the amount of any award under section 7623(b), the reasons for such determination. Clause (iii) shall not apply to any information if the Secretary determines that disclosure of such information would seriously impair Federal tax administration. Information described in clauses (i), (ii), and (iii) may be disclosed to a designee of the individual providing such information in accordance with guidance provided by the Secretary.

Information About the IRS Whistleblower Program

Whistleblower protections for accountants and tax professionals bolstered by new law

Can tax whistleblowers remain anonymous?

Are whistleblowers protected against retaliation for disclosing tax fraud?

IRS Whistleblower Office Issues New Guidance on IRS Whistleblower Reward Process

IRS Whistleblower Office Calls on Congress to Protect Whistleblowers

Audit Reveals IRS Whistleblower Program Needs Improvements

IRS Whistleblower Program Paid More than $103M to Whistleblowers in FY2015

IRS Whistleblower Lawyers: Hire a Leading Whistleblower Law Firm

The whistleblower lawyers at Zuckerman Law have experience representing whistleblowers before the IRS and one of our attorneys is also a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner.  We are a leading whistleblower law firm and two of our attorneys were named top whistleblower lawyers in Washingtonian magazine. U.S. News and Best Lawyers® have named Zuckerman Law a Tier 1 firm in Litigation – Labor and Employment in the Washington DC metropolitan area.  Matthew Stock, the Director of the Whistleblower Rewards Practice at Zuckerman Law, has been quoted in leading publications about the IRS whistleblower program, including in Bloomberg BNA. To discuss potential representation in a tax fraud whistleblower case with amounts in dispute of more than $2 million, click here or call us at (202) 930-5901. What is the process to obtain an IRS whistleblower reward? its whistleblower lawyers
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Whistleblower Rewards and Bounties

The whistleblower rewards attorneys at leading whistleblower firm Zuckerman Law represent whistleblowers worldwide under various whistleblower reward programs, including the following:

best whistleblower lawyers The firm has successfully represented whistleblowers under the SEC Whistleblower Program and the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.

Click here to learn more about the False Claims Act qui tam provisions.

For more information about the SEC, CFTC, and IRS whistleblower reward programs, contact an experienced whistleblower rewards attorney at Zuckerman Law today for a free and confidential case review at (202) 930-5901 or (202) 262-8959.

Click here to read reviews and testimonials from whistleblower clients, including CEOs, CFOs, and other corporate executives.

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SEC Whistleblower Reward Program

The SEC Whistleblower Reward Program provides whistleblowers with a strong monetary incentive, as well as substantial protections, for reporting wrongdoing to the SEC, including the following violations of federal securities laws:

Zuckerman Law also represents whistleblowers in whistleblower retaliation claims including claims brought under the whistleblower protection provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and similar whistleblower protection laws.

For more information about the SEC Whistleblower Program, download our free ebook SEC Whistleblower Program: Tips from SEC Whistleblower Attorneys to Maximize an SEC Whistleblower Award and see the following resources below.

Tips for SEC Whistleblowers to Qualify for an SEC Whistleblower Award

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As discussed in our articles, the SEC whistleblower program has become a very effective enforcement tool for the SEC.  But very few whistleblowers have received awards, which underscores the importance of having experienced counsel represent a whistleblower effectively at the SEC.

How to Get an SEC Whistleblower Bounty

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Top-Rated Whistleblower Rewards Attorneys

We have assembled a team of leading whistleblower rewards lawyers to provide top-notch representation to whistleblowers.  Let us put our unique experience and credentials to work for you:

Whistleblower Protections for SEC Whistleblowers

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Resources About Whistleblower Rewards and Bounties

 

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