Washington, DC, November 16, 2016. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Whistleblower Program had its most successful year to date in 2016. The agency, which issued its annual report to Congress today, reports it issued awards totaling over $57 million in 2016—higher than all award amounts issued in previous years combined. The Office of the Whistleblower (OWB) received over 4,200 tips this year, which is a more than 40 percent increase in whistleblower tips since 2012. In addition, the SEC took action in its first ever stand-alone whistleblower retaliation case.
All told, 2016 was a record-setting year for the OWB with six of the ten highest SEC whistleblower awards paid. Earlier this year the SEC announced it had surpassed the $100 million mark in awards to whistleblowers since the inception of the program, it now stands at over $111 million awarded to 34 whistleblowers. The information and assistance provided by the 34 whistleblowers who received awards under the program led to successful SEC enforcement actions in which over $584 million in financial sanctions.
“We believe that the continued payment of significant awards, like those made this past year, will continue to incentivize company insiders, market participants, and others with knowledge of potential securities law violations to come forward and report their information to the agency,” said Jane Norberg, Chief, of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower.
The SEC also sent a strong message to companies that gag potential whistleblowers. The agency brought charges against a company for retaliating against an employee for reporting a possible securities law violation and charges against multiple companies for impeding their employees’ ability to report to the SEC through severance agreements and other practices.
On the international front, tips from foreign whistleblowers are on the rise. According to the report, whistleblowers from 67 foreign countries filed claims with the SEC in 2016. After the United States, the SEC received the highest number of whistleblower tips in from individuals in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Since the program was established, the OWB has received claims from whistleblowers who reside in 103 countries outside the United States.
“The report validates that whistleblowing is the single most effective way to root out fraud and corruption. Providing individual citizenry with the tools to combat fraud is among the greatest legal accomplishments of this country,” said Michael D. Kohn, President of the Washington, D.C. based National Whistleblower Center and a partner in the law firm of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP.