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CFTC Inspector General will review agency’s whistleblower program

An internal audit into the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s whistleblower program will be restarted after it took a seat to other priorities last year, according to a report from the agency’s Inspector General.

The Inspector General’s report, which was initially submitted to Congress in September but only publicly released on Monday, said the audit’s goal will be to “determine the reason, if any, for the limited number of CFTC whistleblower awards compared to the SEC, and to recommend best practices in this area.”

The five-year-old whistleblower program gave out its first whistleblower award in May 2014 — $240,000 to a whistleblower who helped expose violations of the Commodity Exchange Act. Another award was doled out this September for $290,000.

The SEC has paid out $54 million in whistleblower awards since 2011, including $37 million in 2015 alone. Phillips & Cohen LLP secured for an international client the largest SEC whistleblower award, more than $30 million.

The CFTC has been trying to do its best to handle whistleblower cases with an admittedly limited staff and a tight budget. But things are looking up for the agency that’s often thought of as the younger sibling to the Securities and Exchange Commission: The FY 2016 budget includes an additional $72 million for the CFTC, raising its budget to $322 million.

Though the CFTC whistleblower program is still in its infancy, CFTC Chairman Timothy Massad has indicated that he expects the program to start to take off.

“This is a relatively new program so it is still growing,” Massad said at a Senate hearing in May. “We believe the program will be an important tool going forward in identifying, investigating, and prosecuting violations of the law.”

Christopher Ehrman, director of the CFTC Whistleblower Office, said at a conference in November that his staff has increased from three to eight and that he expects 2016 will be the year “when we hit our stride.”

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