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The Whistleblower business can be very profitable for tipsters, a landmark whistleblower award of nearly $2.5 million was awarded today by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The recipient of this award was the employee of a domestic government agency. Information provided by this whistleblower was instrumental in launching a SEC investigation. The anonymous whistleblower continued to offer assistance and eventually helped expose wide ranging misconduct in an unnamed company.

Jane Norberg, the Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower praised whistleblowers and the continued success of the award program.

”Whistleblowers can provide a wealth of information and ongoing assistance that helps our agency bring enforcement actions quicker and more efficiently,” She also noted the speed allowed by the assistance of whistleblowers.’ “This whistleblower not only helped us open the case, but also provided timely ongoing assistance along with critical documents and testimony that accelerated the pace of our enforcement action.”

A key component of the Dodd-Frank Act is headed to the Supreme Court for review. The court will decide if internal whistleblowers who have not yet reported potential violations to the SEC are protected under the anti-retaliation statutes of Dodd-Frank.

The Supreme Court review is necessary to resolve a split in the lower appellate courts stemming from a case brought by a former Digital Realty Trust Inc executive. In the case, Paul Somers a former employee of Digital Realty seeks to sue for alleged retaliation. Digital Realty had protested a decision by the Ninth Circuit that found that internal whistleblowers were protected under the Dodd-Frank Act’s anti-retaliation statutes, even if they had not yet reported potential violations to the SEC.

Somers’s lawyer, Daniel L. Geyser of Stris and Maher was not surprised by the Supreme Courts willingness to hear the case, although he strongly believed that the Ninth circuits interpretation of the law was in line with the scope of Dodd-Frank as written by Congress.

Even with political clouds of uncertainty from the Trump administration, the head of U.S Securities and Exchange Commission is moving the agency full speed ahead, all the while chastising companies that retaliate or discourage their employees from blowing the whistle on possible securities violations.

Last month, Jane Norberg; the current chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower spoke on a panel at the Practising Law Institute on Corporate Whistleblowing. During the panel, she told attendees that they could expect the same level of enforcement and investigation as in years past.

Open for business

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a former Morgan Stanly employee’s claims that he is entitled to whistleblower protections after reporting to the FBI instead of the SEC.

According to a Law360 report, John S. Verble (CRD# 3197928), the would-be whistleblower, attempted to attain whistleblower protection after he reported illegal activity to the FBI.  Verble filed an action seeking the protection in a lower court, where the court ruled that the Dodd-Frank Act’s whistleblower protections only applied to those who report to the SEC.

The Sixth Circuit, according to the report, upheld the lower court decision and dismissed claims that Morgan Stanley fired Verble in retaliation for reporting the illicit activity.  The Sixth Circuit did not even consider how to interpret the Dodd-Frank whistleblower protections, as it determined Verble’s allegations of working with the FBI were too vague to state a claim for relief.

Proposed CFTC Rules Might Make It Easier for Whistleblowers to Inform the Government About Commodities Fraud on secwhistleblowerlawyers.net

The regulatory agency has requested public comment on proposed amendments

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the independent US government agency that regulates futures and options markets, has requested public comment on proposed amendments to their rules regarding whistleblowers. Specifically, the changes are intended to streamline the process for whistleblowers and to help ensure that they receive protection from potential retaliation.

How does the CFTC currently deal with whistleblowers?

On September 29, 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) announced that casino-gaming company International Game Technology (“IGT”) agreed to pay a $500,000 penalty for firing an employee who reported to senior management and the SEC that the company’s financial statements might be distorted.

The whistleblower retaliation case is the second of its kind since the Dodd-Frank Act authorized the agency to bring retaliation charges.  According to the SEC order, the employee had been a director of an IGT division since 2008 and received positive performance reviews throughout his time with the company and never received any sort of discipline or corrective action.

The whistleblower received a favorable evaluation in the 2014 mid-year review and was deemed an employee on the rise, according to the order.  Shortly after that review, the whistleblower raised concerns to his managers, to the company’s internal complaint hotline, and to the SEC that IGT’s publicly-reported financial statements may have been misstated.  Approximately three months after the whistleblower raised his concerns, according to the order, IGT terminated him.

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced on September 28, 2016 that Anheuser-Busch InBev agreed to pay $6 million to settle charges that the company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and attempted to silence a whistleblower who reported the misconduct.

An SEC investigation found that the company used third-party sales promoters to make improper payments to government officials in India to increase the sales and production the company’s products in India.  According to the SEC order, Anheuser-Busch InBev repeatedly ignored employee complaints, had inadequate internal accounting controls to detect and prevent the improper payments, and failed to ensure that transactions involving the promoters were recorded properly in its books and records.

Additionally, according to the order, the SEC found that Anheuser-Busch InBev entered into a separation agreement that stopped an employee from continuing to voluntarily communicate with the SEC about the potential FCPA violations due to a substantial financial penalty that would be imposed for violating strict non-disclosure terms.

Atlanta-based building products distributor BlueLinx Inc. is settling charges that it violated an important whistleblower protection rule by using severance agreements that required departing employees to waive their rights to monetary recovery should they file a charge or complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) or other federal agencies.

BlueLinx has agreed to pay a $265,000 penalty per the SEC’s order.

According to the SEC’s order, BlueLinx’s restrictive provisions were an attempt to bar employees from filing charges against the company and to keep their mouths shut if the company ever committed any securities law violations.  The restrictive language in the agreements essentially forced employees leaving the company to waive possible whistleblower awards or risk losing their severance payments and other post-employment benefits.

save-the-qeen-1244290The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has taken the side of the whistleblower in a dispute against mutual fund giant Vanguard Group.

The SEC filed a brief on March 28, 2016 in support of David Danon, a former lawyer at the Pennsylvania-based money manager who said Vanguard terminated him because he raised concerns about some of the firm’s tax practices.  Danon filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Vanguard in late 2015.

The Dodd-Frank Act entices “whistleblowers” to come forth and help the SEC identify possible fraud and other violations much earlier than might have been possible, consequently reducing harm to investors, preserving the integrity of U.S. capital markets, and swiftly holding perpetrators of unlawful conduct accountable, according to the SEC Office of the Whistleblower website.

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