“At no point have I ever considered who the counsel is on a recommendation. It doesn’t factor into our analysis,” Nicole Creola Kelly, the chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, recently told the Wall Street Journal.
Kelly conducted one of her first media interviews since taking over the SEC Whistleblower Program in November 2021. She defended the whistleblower program from recent criticisms that it favors a small group of law firms with connections to the agency.
“When I hear about this, the revolving door in our space, I think it’s interesting because it’s never occurred to any of us to favor anybody,” Kelly said. “I think what’s interesting is that I don’t think people appreciate this enough…that when a whistleblower comes forward, they might have potential exposure. We pay whistleblowers to have culpability.”
“Kelly defended how the program decides on awards, saying that it treats every whistleblower equally, whether or not they have counsel, and doesn’t consider who represents them in its decisions to award corporate tipsters,” the Journal further reported.
Kelly’s defense of the program echoes the findings of a 2022 WNN investigation into the attacks on the program. WNN reviewed the 1034 pages of documents that served as the basis for articles attacking the SEC Whistleblower Program.
“The documents demonstrate that the SEC carefully processed numerous whistleblower claims from individuals not represented by attorneys. It also shows that a vast majority of the law firms that successfully represented whistleblowers do not have any former SEC employees on staff,” explained whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn, who represented WNN in the FOIA proceeding.