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SEC rewards whistleblowers at record pace and in record amounts this year

The Securities and Exchange Commission is issuing SEC whistleblower awards at an unprecedented pace in fiscal year 2021, shattering previous records for the number and size of awards granted to securities whistleblowers.

The SEC has issued $339 million in awards to 57 whistleblowers in fiscal year 2021 so far, eclipsing the $175 million issued to 39 whistleblowers in the entire prior fiscal year 2020.

The SEC has now awarded approximately $901 million to 163 securities whistleblowers since 2012, when it issued its first ever award.

The dramatic increase in SEC whistleblower awards means that more than one third of the total amount of money awarded to SEC whistleblowers – since the first SEC award in 2012 – has been granted in the past 8 months alone. In addition, 35% of all SEC whistleblower awards have been made in FY 2021.

The SEC’s extraordinary streak continued this month, starting with $57 million in awards issued to eight whistleblowers.

More recently, the SEC made a $28 million award to a whistleblower who reportedly aided the SEC and DOJ investigations of foreign bribery in Asia and Europe by Panasonic Avionics Corp., a US subsidiary of Japanese electronics giant Panasonic. The award tied for the 10th largest SEC whistleblower award ever.

Panasonic paid a total of $280 million In 2018 to settle the charges. The whistleblower received 10% of the monetary penalties collected by the SEC and DOJ, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The largest SEC whistleblower award to date was announced three weeks into FY2021 in October 2020. The SEC issued $114 million to a whistleblower who reported significant financial misconduct to the SEC and another agency and provided “substantial, ongoing assistance that proved critical to the success of the actions” – despite suffering “extraordinary” hardships.

The recent string of SEC whistleblower awards “reflects the vitality and continued success of the SEC’s whistleblower program,” said Emily Pasquinelli, acting chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, in a statement.

How the SEC’s whistleblower program works

The SEC whistleblower program was created by the Dodd-Frank Act, enacted in 2010. The law offers SEC whistleblowers strong confidentiality safeguards along with protection from job retaliation and rewards.

The SEC rewards securities whistleblowers with 10% to 30% percent of the amount collected as a result of whistleblowers’ information, if SEC sanctions exceed $1 million. The reward amount depends on a number of factors, including the level of assistance provided by whistleblowers and their counsel.

The money for SEC whistleblower rewards comes from a special fund supported through monetary sanctions paid to the SEC by securities law violators.

Securities whistleblowers are empowered globally. They can be anywhere in the world and don’t have to be US citizens.

Phillips & Cohen’s roster of whistleblower attorneys includes Sean McKessy, the former founding Chief of the SEC Office of the Whistleblower, and Erika Kelton, who has won a record eight SEC whistleblower awards for Phillips & Cohen whistleblower clients – including the largest award secured for an international whistleblower client.

If you are aware of possible securities law violations and are thinking of becoming a whistleblower, contact us for a free, confidential review of your matter by experienced and successful SEC whistleblower attorneys.


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