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What To Know About The SEC Whistleblower Program


When a person becomes a whistleblower, it takes tremendous courage. Along with possible retaliation from their employer, they also realize their lives may be turned upside down in many other ways. Because of this, the Securities and Exchange Commission has what is known as the SEC Whistleblower Program. Established in 2010 as part of the landmark congressional legislation Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, this option gives whistleblowers the chance to reveal information to law enforcement and regulatory investigators while being protected from employer retribution.

As an extra incentive to ensure reliable tips are received by the SEC office, an award program is in place for those whistleblowers whose information eventually leads to sanctions being placed on a company. While the amounts awarded to whistleblowers vary, they generally receive anywhere from as little as 10% to as much as 30% of the sanctions levied against a company. Applying to individual whistleblowers as well as groups who come forward, this aspect has been a key part of the program’s success. To date, more than $153 million has been paid out to employees who have helped the federal government find and prosecute corporate corruption within the financial industry.

While some employees choose to not conceal their identities when blowing the whistle on a company’s corrupt practices, others decide to remain anonymous during the process. For those who choose this option, the SEC Whistleblower Program’s guidelines are very specific regarding how information garnered from these sources is handled. To begin with, any whistleblower using anonymous reporting is required to have representation from an attorney or law firm. Next, the individual or group must submit to their legal counsel a written submission of the allegations, signed by all parties under the penalty of perjury. Once this is done, the lawyer can then work as an advocate for the whistleblower, helping them receive as high an amount of a reward as possible.

Since these situations are so important, it is imperative protective measures be in place for employees who report corruption being conducted by their employer. Thus, a number of anti-retaliatory measures are in place to ensure the program’s success. Along with the numerous state and federal laws already in place to protect whistleblowers, this program’s protections focus on such retaliatory efforts by employers as firing, demotion, threats, harassment, and suspension. If it is proven an employer took retaliatory action against an employee cooperating with authorities as a whistleblower, various actions can be taken. To start with, the employee’s case can skip the usual process of administrative remedies, instead going straight to federal court. Upon hearing the case, a federal judge can order a number of remedies be taken to aid the employee, including receiving double back pay, reinstatement to their previous position with full seniority, and having the employer reimburse them for legal costs such as attorney fees, expert witness fees, and court costs associated with their case.

In doing so, employees know they will have legal protection, regardless of the circumstances.