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SEC Whistleblower Lawyer Blog

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The CFTC Whistleblower program today announced the launch of a news portal, event schedule, and FAQ for its whistleblower program on its website

This new portal will contain industry news, CFTC Events and a FAQ covering the Whistleblower program and information on submitting a whistleblower tip and claiming awards based on accurate tips. The CFTC hopes this newly created section of its site will provide higher quality tips that lead to larger sanctions and more awards being paid out to tipsters.

Some of the tips for Whistleblowers suggested by the CFTC

The Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC’) announced on December 9, 2016 that it had awarded more than $900,000 to a whistleblower whose tip enabled the SEC to bring multiple enforcement actions against bad actors.

The nearly-$1 million award is the second award announced by the SEC this week and brings the total amount awarded to whistleblowers to more than $136 million.  The $136 million plus has been awarded to 37 whistleblowers.

Under the SEC whistleblower program, established by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2011, the SEC is required to ardently protect confidentiality of whistleblowers and cannot disclose information that might indirectly or directly reveal a whistleblower’s identity.

The sound of a whistle on Wall Street blew loudly this week for one informative whistleblower.  What did that whistle sound like? It sounded like $20 million.

On November 14, 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced an award of more than $20 million to a whistleblower who gave valuable information that enabled the SEC to initiate an enforcement action against wrongdoers before the wrongdoers squandered the money.  The $20 million award is the third-highest since the SEC’s whistleblower program issued its first award in 2012.

Under the SEC whistleblower rules, the SEC protects the confidentiality of whistleblowers and does not disclose information that might directly or indirectly reveal a whistleblower’s identity.  This is why the details in almost all news releases regarding a whistleblower award are sparse.  Even the SEC order determining the whistleblower claim is largely redacted.  Other whistleblower orders follow suit.

Insiders in the investment advice sector are starting to grow bolder and start a trend of notifying the SEC of bad-acting firms and principals.

On August 30, 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced another whistleblower award in the amount of more than $22 million.  The amount is the second-largest total the SEC has awarded a whistleblower.  The whistleblower’s detailed tip and extensive assistance helped the SEC halt a “well-hidden” fraud at the company where the whistleblower worked, according to the SEC.

Earlier this month, Indiana announced its first whistleblower award, giving $95,000 to a former JP Morgan official who helped the state’s regulator make an advice-related case against the firm that resulted in a $950,000 settlement.

Litigating a case can take a long time and accrues many costs and fees.  Among those fees include filing costs, the cost of hiring an expert to testify, the cost of various office tasks such as printing and mailing, and many others.  But the first cost that immediately comes to most people’s minds is attorney’s fees.

Often times, the costs of paying an attorney might dissuade people from getting one in the first place or bowing to financial pressure in the midst of case simply because the client does not have enough money to continue paying an attorney.  Paying thousands of dollars to an attorney without having absolute certainty a client will win his or her case can be a daunting endeavor.

The contingency fee presents a solution to all those upfront costs.

California-based Health Net Inc. has agreed to pay a penalty for illegally using its severance agreements to require outgoing employees to waive their ability to obtain monetary awards from the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) whistleblower program.

Health Net has agreed to pay a $340,000 penalty per the SEC’s order.

According to the SEC’s order, Health Net included a provision that enumerating various potential claims against it that a departing employee waived as a condition of being paid monetary severance payments – essentially an agreement stipulating to keep quiet or risk losing your money.

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Second Circuit of Appeals reverses lower court’s dismissal

The Second Circuit of Appeals contributed to the ongoing battle over the definition of a whistleblower September 10 by remanding a workplace retaliation case dismissed by a lower court in 2014.

Daniel Berman reported an alleged violation within his corporation before reporting it to the SEC, allegedly resulting in his termination, according to Law 360. Berman, a former financial director at Neo@Oglivy, sued the marketing firm and its parent company, WPP Group USA, Inc., in January 2014.

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Represents the second award to be issued by the CFTC

The U.S. Commodity Future Trading Commission (CFTC) is seeking important information on infringements against the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA). In a recent announcement, the commission reported that it intended to award a credible whistleblower up to $290,000.

The CFTC’s Whistleblower Program provides monetary awards to persons who report violations of the CEA if the information leads to an enforcement action that results in more than $1 million in monetary sanctions. In addition, whistleblowers are eligible for 10 to 30 percent of monies collected.

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How the SEC’s definition of whistleblower will hold up in court

Since the 2010 passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, the definition of “whistleblower” has been a subject of contention among courts, businesses and would-be whistleblowers. Its supposed ambiguity stems in part from the fact that the SEC offers two potentially contradictory definitions in two separate provisions.

In the first, the bounty provision, the SEC defines a whistleblower as “any individual who provides … information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the Commission, in a manner established, by rule or regulation, by the Commission.”

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Protections under the Dodd-Frank Act guaranteed award

The Securities and Exchange Commission paid $3 million to a whistleblower on July 17, 2015 under the Dodd-Frank Act, which became law in July 2010. The act protects whistleblowers from retaliation from their employers and guarantees them an award from the SEC and/or the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) for providing information about a potential violation that leads to “the successful enforcement of a covered judicial or administrative action, or a related action,” according to the Federal Register.

According to Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, the whistleblower protections outlined in the act are effective in helping to uncover fraudulent schemes that may have otherwise flown under the radar and potentially affected more people and caused greater damages.

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