The Commodity Futures Trading Commission whistleblower program had a banner year in fiscal year 2020, with the total amount of whistleblower awards and the number of whistleblowers both exceeding previous years’ numbers.
The CFTC awarded $20 million in whistleblower rewards to 16 whistleblowers in FY 2020. The previous record was in 2018 when the CFTC awarded a total of $75 million to whistleblowers and in 2019 and 2018, when 5 whistleblowers received CFTC awards each year.
The CFTC whistleblower program also saw a record number of whistleblower reports filed – 1,030 – in the past fiscal year. This was a 36% increase over the previous peak of 760 whistleblower reports filed in FY 2018 and a dramatic 126% increase over the 455 reports filed last fiscal year.
Roughly 40% of the CFTC’s enforcement actions are due to whistleblowers, a CFTC enforcement official recently said at a whistleblower lawyers’ conference.
Since the CFTC’s first whistleblower award in 2014, the CFTC has awarded a total of $120 million in whistleblower rewards to 25 whistleblowers. CFTC enforcement actions associated with those awards have resulted in sanctions of nearly $1 billion.
The CFTC made three awards in FY 2020 to multiple whistleblowers, including a $2 million reward shared by four whistleblowers. Two of the whistleblowers who were part of the shared whistleblower awards were overseas whistleblowers.
Other noteworthy CFTC whistleblower awards included $2 million that was based partially on related enforcement actions brought by another regulator and $6 million awarded to a whistleblower whose “specific, credible and timely” information lead to the CFTC opening a new investigation.
The largest CFTC whistleblower award issued in FY 2020 was $9 million, which is one of the five largest issued by the agency to date. The biggest CFTC whistleblower award ever was made in 2018 for $20 million.
The CFTC reduced one whistleblower award in FY 2020 because the whistleblower delayed reporting the violations to the CFTC, the agency said.
Whistleblowers whose original information and assistance helps the CFTC in an enforcement action where sanctions exceed $1 million are eligible for whistleblower rewards, equal to 10% to 30% of the amount collected. CFTC whistleblowers are granted confidentiality and protection from job retaliation. Foreign citizens can qualify for whistleblower awards.
In its annual whistleblower report, the CFTC highlighted its coronavirus-related actions. In July, the CFTC took its first enforcement action involving commodities fraud that was tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, CFTC Chairman Heath P. Tarbert said in October that the record 113 enforcements in FY 2020 brought by the CFTC “are impressive, but the fact that the enforcement program was this successful even during a pandemic is even more remarkable.”
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