Image of What monetary awards are available to whistleblowers under the SEC Whistleblower Program?

What monetary awards are available to whistleblowers under the SEC Whistleblower Program?

SEC Whistleblower Program

Under the SEC Whistleblower Program, eligible whistleblowers are entitled to an award of between 10% and 30% of the monetary sanctions collected in actions brought by the SEC and related actions brought by other regulatory and law enforcement authorities. Due to the size of monetary sanctions in many SEC cases and related enforcement actions, whistleblowers may be eligible for substantial monetary awards.

To date, the SEC Whistleblower Office has issued well in excess of $100 million in awards to whistleblowers. In 2016 alone, the office issued more than $57 million to whistleblowers.

SEC Whistleblower Awards

The table below identifies some of the larger awards that the SEC has provided to whistleblowers:

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.
$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.
$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.

For more information about whistleblower rewards and bounties, contact the SEC whistleblower lawyers at Zuckerman Law at 202-262-8959.

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Jason Zuckerman, Principal of Zuckerman Law, litigates whistleblower retaliation, qui tam, wrongful discharge, and other employment-related claims. He is rated 10 out of 10 by Avvo, was recognized by Washingtonian magazine as a “Top Whistleblower Lawyer” in 2015 and selected by his peers to be included in The Best Lawyers in America® and in SuperLawyers.