In our previous post, we reviewed the major provisions of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (AMLA), an expansion of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). We also started tackling the enforcement priorities of the Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), the agency most responsible for anti-money laundering enforcement. Now that we have a sense of what AMLA is about and what prosecutors are focused on, we’ll look at how it expands the pool of eligible whistleblowers and the compensation they might receive.
In December 2022, Congress amended the AMLA whistleblower program of 2020 with the intention of better aligning the AMLA program with successful whistleblower programs at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
Given the breadth of its statutory reach and the unique characteristics of its whistleblowing program, AMLA goes beyond both of those programs, however—and has the potential to become the most important whistleblowing program in the U.S.
Who Is Eligible To Become An AMLA Whistleblower
As with other whistleblowing programs, AMLA whistleblowers do not have to be U.S. citizens or employees of an American firm. As long as the information relates to something within U.S. jurisdiction, whistleblowers can submit tips from anywhere in the world.
The AMLA program does not follow the SEC’s model on other questions of eligibility, though. While the SEC program bars awards to individuals who work in compliance and related oversight positions, the AMLA program does not: Individuals such as compliance officials, attorneys, and auditors, who learn about wrongdoing as part of their official duties are not precluded from getting an award under AMLA.
Instead, AMLA bars awards for whistleblowers who work at regulatory or banking agencies, the Department of Treasury, and other law enforcement agencies.
In other words, the SEC prohibits awards going to whistleblowers who are supposed to reveal financial wrongdoing, while the AMLA prohibits awards for those who are supposed to prosecute the wrongdoing.
The result is that people with routine access to the facts that establish financial wrongdoing, and who have an understanding of the company’s potential liability, can now be rewarded for coming forward.
AMLA Whistleblower Awards
Some of the most significant changes to AMLA relate to whistleblower awards. Previously, these were capped at $150,000. That cap is now gone. For cases resulting in more than $1 million in sanctions, a qualified whistleblower can expect to get at least 10% of the sanctions. Depending on their contribution, an AMLA whistleblower could receive up to 30% of the monetary sanctions. (For one FinCen action in 2021, that would have resulted in an award of $117 million.)
The amendments also created a permanent fund to supply the money for the awards, so there is no concern that awards could be caught up in future Congressional budgetary disputes.
AMLA Anti-Retaliation Protections
The revised AMLA strengthens anti-retaliation protections for whistleblowers. Reports of retaliation are now administered by the Department of Labor, and whistleblowers who can prove they’ve been retaliated against are entitled to reinstatement, double back pay, and compensatory damages. They’re also entitled to attorneys’ fees and related expenses. They may receive other appropriate relief as well, depending on the facts of the case.
In another crucial departure from the other whistleblower programs, which only protect those who have reported the wrongdoing to the government, AMLA protects those who report wrongdoing to the government and those who report wrongdoing on a solely internal basis.
Specifically, if an employee reports financial misconduct to “a person with supervisory authority over the whistleblower, or such other person working for the employer who has the authority to investigate, discover, or terminate misconduct,” and suffers retaliation for it, they’re protected under the AMLA and may receive compensation.
For example, if a compliance officer alerts their supervisor or another senior executive that the company is submitting a false report to FinCEN, and the company retaliates against them for speaking up, the compliance officer might be eligible for damages—whether or not they report the malfeasance to anyone outside the company. Once again, this is a potentially huge expansion of the eligibility criteria for whistleblowing-related compensation.
In our next and final post in this series, we’ll analyze the types of tips that may lead to AMLA prosecutions and awards.
If you’re considering becoming a whistleblower and have questions about the process, don’t wait: Contact the Silver Law Group and the Law Firm of David Chase, who have created a strategic alliance to represent AMLA whistleblowers like you.
With years of experience representing whistleblowers, coupled with an SEC enforcement lawyer on our team, we have an in-depth understanding of the federal whistleblower programs are looking for. We can help you submit a tip that is more likely to result in a successful covered action. We’re here to help whistleblowers maximize their opportunity to receive a financial bounty. For a free, confidential consultation, contact us by email or call us today at (800) 975-4345.