Washington, D.C. October 12, 2016. The Securities and Commodities Exchange(SEC) announced yesterday that fiscal year 2016, which ended on September 30, 2016, was a record year for SEC enforcement. The agency reached new highs in enforcement in all areas, especially for whistleblowers.
The SEC brought the first stand-alone action for retaliation against a whistleblower. In addition the agency charged Anheuser-Busch, Merrill Lynch, BlueLinx Holdings Inc., and Health Net Inc. for violating Exchange Act Rule 21F-17, which prohibits the use of confidentiality agreements or other actions to impede a whistleblower from communicating with the SEC.
Just last year the agency issued its first enforcement action for gagging employees. In that case the agency took action against KBR Inc., for its past conduct of silencing potential whistleblowers by using confidentiality agreements that threatened to terminate employees for reporting wrongdoing to anyone outside of the company.
The SEC also reached new highs for Foreign Corrupt Practices Act-related enforcement actions (21). Two of the SEC’s most significant enforcement actions in 2016 were the FCPA cases against the Och-Ziff hedge fund and its CEO and CFO and against VimpelCom Ltd. in which the companies paid hundreds of millions of dollars to settle the charges.
The SEC distributed the most money ever to whistleblowers in a single year. The whistleblower program awarded over $57 million to 13 whistleblowers in fiscal year 2016, which is more than in all previous years combined.
“This has been a strong year for the Enforcement Division, with groundbreaking insider trading and FCPA cases and other important actions across the full spectrum of the securities laws,” added Andrew J. Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division.