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What are SEC sanctions and penalties?

SEC Sanctions and Penalties

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtains billions of dollars each year in monetary sanctions for violations of the federal securities laws. An enforcement action resolving charges typically requires the wrongdoer to provide the following relief:

  • Disgorge, or pay back, ill-gotten gains in order to return the funds to harmed investors;
  • Pay civil monetary penalties (see the calculation of civil monetary penalties); and
  • Pay interest (prejudgement and potentially postjudgement).

SEC whistleblower bounties or awardsThe calculation of monetary sanctions is critically important to SEC whistleblowers because it determines the amount from which an SEC whistleblower award is calculated. Under the Dodd-Frank Act’s SEC Whistleblower Program, the SEC will issue awards to whistleblowers who provide original information that leads to successful SEC enforcement actions with total monetary sanctions exceeding $1 million. (Note: If represented by an attorney, a whistleblower may submit a tip anonymously to the SEC.) In exchange for the valuable information, a whistleblower may receive an award of between 10% and 30% of the total monetary sanctions collected in an enforcement action.

Since 2012, the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower has paid more than $1.8 billion in awards to whistleblowers, which includes multi-million dollar awards paid to our clients. The largest SEC whistleblower awards to date are $279 million, $114 million, and $110 million. 

To find out if you may qualify for an SEC whistleblower award, contact leading whistleblower law firm Zuckerman Law at 202-930-5901 or email us at [email protected]. We represent whistleblowers worldwide.



Year-By-Year Total SEC Sanctions Since FY ’04

Annually, the SEC announces the total monetary sanctions obtained from successful enforcement actions. The table below identifies the total illegal profits that securities violators were required to disgorge and the total penalties they were required to pay.

Fiscal YearDisgorgementPenalties
2023$3.369 billion$1.580 billion
2022$2.245 billion$4.194 billion
2021$2.4 billion$1.4 billion
2020$3.589 billion$1.091 billion
2019$3.248 billion$1.101 billion
2018$2.506 billion$1.439 billion
2017$2.957 billion$832 million
2016$2.809 billion$1.273 billion
2015$3.019 billion$1.175 billion
2014$4.16 billion total$4.16 billion total
2013$2.257 billion$1.167 billion
2012$2.083 billion$1.021 billion
2011$1.878 billion$928 million
2010$1.82 billion$1.03 billion
2009$2.09 billion$345 million
2008$774 million$256 million
2007$1.093 billion$507 million
2006$2.3 billion$975 million
2005$1.6 billion$1.5 billion
2004$1.9 billion$1.2 billion

For more information about SEC sanctions, see a recent speech by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement: Remedies and Relief in SEC Enforcement Actions.

SEC Whistleblower Program

SEC Whistleblower Lawyers Attorneys and Law FirmUnder the SEC Whistleblower Program, the SEC will issue awards to whistleblowers who provide original information about a violation of the federal securities laws that leads to successful enforcement actions with total monetary sanctions in excess of $1 million. In exchange for the information, the SEC will issue an award of between 10 to 30 percent of the total monetary sanctions collected to the whistleblower. If represented by counsel, a whistleblower may submit a tip anonymously to the SEC.

In its short history, the SEC Whistleblower Program has had a tremendous impact on securities enforcement. Since the inception of the program in August 2011, the SEC has received more than 60,000 whistleblower tips, some of which have enabled the SEC to order more than $6.3 billion in monetary sanctions from wrongdoers. According to the SEC Office of the Whistleblower’s annual report, the SEC received more than 12,300 tips in FY 2022. The most common complaint categories reported by whistleblowers were Manipulation (21%), Offering Fraud (17%), Initial Coin Offerings and Cryptocurrencies (14%), and Corporate Disclosures and Financials (13%). See some of the SEC whistleblower cases that have resulted in large awards.

For more information about the SEC Whistleblower Program, download the eBook: SEC Whistleblower Program: Tips from SEC Whistleblower Attorneys to Maximize an SEC Whistleblower Award.

Violations Leading to SEC Sanctions

A tip about any violation of U.S. federal securities laws may qualify a whistleblower for an award under the SEC Whistleblower Program, including:

Tier-1 Law Firm Representing SEC Whistleblowers

If you would like more information on the SEC Whistleblower Program, contact an SEC Whistleblower Attorney at Zuckerman Law for a free, confidential consultation. Zuckerman Law is one of the nation’s leading law firms representing whistleblowers in whistleblower rewards and retaliation cases.

SEC Whistleblower Lawyers

Click below to hear SEC whistleblower lawyer Matt Stock‘s tips for SEC whistleblowers:

SEC whistleblower lawyers

How to Qualify for an SEC Whistleblower Award

SEC Whistleblower Process

Are SEC Whistleblowers Protected from Retaliation?

Protections for SEC Whistleblowers Post-Digital Realty (11-6-2020)

SEC whistleblower attorney

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.

Matthew Stock is the Director of the Whistleblower Rewards Practice at Zuckerman Law. He represents whistleblowers around the world in SEC, CFTC and IRS whistleblower claims. He is also a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Fraud Examiner and former KPMG external auditor.