SEC Whistleblower Attorney
Under the SEC Whistleblower Program, whistleblowers are eligible for monetary awards when they provide original information that leads to successful SEC enforcement actions resulting in monetary sanctions over $1,000,000. In exchange for the valuable information, a whistleblower may receive an award of between 10% to 30% of the total monetary sanctions collected.
Since 2012, the SEC has paid more than $900 million in awards to whistleblowers. The largest SEC whistleblower award to date is $114 million. Since the program’s inception, whistleblower tips have enabled the SEC to order more than $2.7 billion in monetary sanctions against wrongdoers.
Whistleblowers may submit tips anonymously through an attorney. For many whistleblowers, it is imperative that their identity remain confidential when submitting information to the SEC. An experienced SEC whistleblower attorney can skillfully guide whistleblowers through the process, maximizing the likelihood that their identity is not revealed to unauthorized parties. In addition, an experienced SEC whistleblower attorney can maximize the likelihood of recovering an SEC whistleblower award.
Under the program, the SEC is authorized to issue payouts for original information about any violation of the federal securities laws, including:
- Accounting fraud;
- Investment and securities fraud;
- Insider trading;
- Foreign bribery and other FCPA violations;
- EB-5 investment fraud;
- Manipulation of a security’s price or volume;
- Fraudulent securities offerings and Ponzi schemes;
- Hedge fund fraud;
- Unregistered broker-dealers;
- Investment adviser fraud;
- Anti-money laundering (AML) violations;
- False or misleading statements about a company or investment;
- Inadequate internal controls;
- Deceptive non-GAAP financials;
- Improper revenue recognition;
- Violations of auditor independence rules;
- Misleading or incomplete cybersecurity disclosures; and
- Blockchain and cryptocurrency fraud.
If you have information that may qualify for an SEC whistleblower award, contact the Director of our SEC whistleblower practice directly at email@example.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, we have helped the SEC halt multi-million dollar investment schemes, expose violations at large publicly traded companies and return funds to defrauded investors. Read our tips for SEC whistleblowers and Forbes column about the success of the SEC whistleblower program.
Zuckerman Law, one of the nation’s leading law firms representing whistleblowers in whistleblower rewards and whistleblower retaliation claims, will work to quickly provide you with the highest-quality representation to maximize your likelihood of recovering an SEC whistleblower award.
Click here to learn more about anti-retaliation protections for SEC whistleblowers under the Dodd-Frank Act and Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
SEC Whistleblower Attorneys
Click below to hear an SEC whistleblower attorney’s tips for SEC whistleblowers:
SEC Whistleblower Program’s Rules
Under the rules of the SEC Whistleblower Program, the SEC is required to pay awards to eligible whistleblowers who:
- Voluntarily provide the SEC
- With original information
- That leads to the successful SEC enforcement action
- In which the SEC obtains monetary sanctions totaling more than $1,000,000.
Most individuals, regardless of citizenship, are eligible whistleblowers if they voluntarily submit a tip to the SEC about a violation that has occurred, is ongoing, or is about to occur. Indeed, even lawyers, external auditors, and individuals involved in the wrongdoing may be eligible for awards if certain steps are taken. If you are uncertain about your eligibility, you should consult with an experienced SEC whistleblower attorney to determine the appropriate steps.
A whistleblower must also provide the SEC with “original information”—i.e., information not already known to the SEC. If someone reports another individual’s information to the SEC first, the latter will not be entitled to a percentage of any monetary sanctions collected.
Finally, original information “leads to” a successful SEC enforcement action if it causes the SEC or other designated authorities to open an investigation, re-open a previously closed investigation, pursue a new line of inquiry, or if the information “significantly contributes” to an open investigation. A whistleblower’s information may “significantly contribute” to an open investigation in several ways, including if the information allows the SEC to bring the enforcement action in significantly less time or with significantly fewer resources, expands the scope of the current investigation, leading to additional successful claims, or allows the SEC to bring claims against additional parties.
For more information about the SEC Whistleblower Program, download the eBook Tips from SEC Whistleblower Attorneys to Maximize an SEC Whistleblower Award.
SEC Whistleblower Awards
The SEC can pay awards ranging from 10% to 30% of the “monetary sanctions” collected. Monetary sanctions include any money, such as penalties, disgorgement, and interest, ordered to be paid and any money deposited into a disgorgement fund or other fund pursuant to federal law.
Since the inception of the SEC Whistleblower Program, whistleblower tips have enabled the SEC to recover nearly $4 billion in monetary sanctions from wrongdoers and the SEC Whistleblower Office has issued more than $900 million in awards to whistleblowers. The table below identifies some of the largest awards that the SEC has issued to whistleblowers:
|Whistleblower Award||Date||Basis for Whistleblower Award|
|$114 million||October 22, 2020||On 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.|
|$50 million||April 15, 2021||On 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 million||June 4, 2020||On 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 million||March 19, 2018||On 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 million||September 6, 2018||On 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 million||March 26, 2019||On 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.|
|$30 million||September 22, 2014||A 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 million||May 19, 2021||On 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 million||November 3, 2020||The 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 million||May 17, 2021||The 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 million||April 16, 2020||The 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 million||June 2, 2021||The 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 million||May 10, 2021||On 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 million||August 30, 2016||A 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 million||November 14, 2016||According 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 million||April 28, 2020||The 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 million||June 9, 2016||A 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 million||November 30, 2017||Two 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, 2013||The 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, 2021||The 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 million||January 23, 2017||Three 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 million||January 6, 2017||An 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 million||April 20, 2020||The 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 million||May 17, 2016||A 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, 2017||The 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, 2016||The 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 million||July 14, 2020||The 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 million||May 13, 2016||The 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.
Protections for SEC Whistleblowers
SEC whistleblowers are also offered anti-retaliation protections. Specifically, an employer may not “discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, directly or indirectly, or in any manner discriminates against, a whistleblower” for legally reporting a violation of the federal securities laws to the SEC. Relief or damages for retaliation include reinstatement, double backpay, and litigation costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees. SEC whistleblowers are also afforded protections under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). A SOX whistleblower recently received a jury verdict of $11 million after prevailing on his SOX retaliation claim.
SEC Whistleblower Tips
Since August 2011, the SEC Whistleblower Office has received over 40,200 tips. According to the SEC Whistleblower Program’s 2020 Annual Report to Congress, the number of whistleblower tips has increased in nearly every year since the inception of the program:
- FY 2011: 334
- FY 2012: 3,001
- FY 2013: 3,238
- FY 2014: 3,620
- FY 2015: 3,923
- FY 2016: 4,218
- FY 2017: 4,484
- FY 2018: 5,282
- FY 2019: 5,200
- FY 2020: 6,900
Due to the increased quantity of tips, it is imperative that whistleblowers prepare high-quality submissions that grab the SEC’s attention. Otherwise, whistleblowers run the risk of having their tip fall to the wayside like most of the tips.
An experienced SEC whistleblower attorney can help whistleblowers get noticed by drafting a Form TCR that will grab the SEC’s attention and highlight the most important aspects of the claim. A well-prepared submission will also increase the likelihood that the SEC will act on the tip. Further, an experienced attorney will draft a TCR with an eye to the future and include significant factors that could increase the percentage of a potential award.
In addition to preparing the TCR, an SEC whistleblower attorney can determine the appropriate evidence to provide (or not provide) to the SEC as well as advise the whistleblower on any potential exposure as a result of providing the evidence. Finally, and as a practical matter, the SEC will likely view a whistleblower’s tip as more credible if it is submitted by a reputable SEC whistleblower attorney who has prior experience working with the SEC Whistleblower Office.
SEC Whistleblower Attorney: Top FAQs
- What is the SEC Whistleblower Program?
- What is the SEC Office of the Whistleblower?
- What are the largest SEC whistleblower awards?
- Can I submit an anonymous tip to the SEC Office of the Whistleblower?
- What exactly does anonymous whistleblowing entail?
- What employment protections are available for SEC whistleblowers?
- What violations qualify for an SEC whistleblower award?
- Can the SEC bring enforcement actions against international schemes?
- Who is an “eligible” SEC whistleblower?
- Can compliance personnel, auditors, officers or directors qualify for SEC whistleblower awards?
- Can I submit a claim if I had some involvement in the fraud or misconduct?
- Can culpable whistleblowers qualify for SEC whistleblower awards?
- Do I have to report a potential violation to my company before reporting it to the SEC?
- What type of evidence should I provide to the SEC?
- Can I use confidential company documents to expose fraud?
- Can I disclose secret recordings to the SEC?
- Can I submit a tip if I agreed to a confidentiality provision in an employment/severance agreement?
- When is the best time to report the fraud or misconduct to the SEC?
- What is “original information”?
- Can I submit an SEC Whistleblower claim if the SEC already has an open investigation into the matter?
- How might my information “lead to” a successful SEC enforcement action?
- What “related actions” qualify for an SEC whistleblower award?
- How do the best SEC whistleblower law firms advocate for whistleblowers?
- How do I choose the best whistleblower attorney?
- Why should I choose the Zuckerman Law to represent me in my SEC whistleblower claim?
- How do I submit a tip to the SEC Office of the Whistleblower?
- What happens after I submit a tip to the SEC?
- What factors does the SEC consider when determining the amount of the award?
- What happens after I apply for an SEC whistleblower award?
- How long does it take to receive an SEC whistleblower award?
SEC Whistleblower Attorneys Helping Whistleblowers Navigate the SEC Whistleblower Processwhistleblower_lawyers_012017_infographic
ABOUT ZUCKERMAN LAW
We are a Washington, DC-based law firm that represents whistleblowers in whistleblower rewards and whistleblower retaliation matters and litigates discrimination claims on behalf of employees in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. The firm is dedicated to zealously advocating on behalf of our clients to achieve justice and accountability.