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Compliance officer awarded $1.5 million under SEC whistleblower program

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced an award Wednesday of about $1.5 million to a compliance professional who provided information for an enforcement action against the whistleblower’s company.

The award went to a compliance officer “who had a reasonable basis to believe that disclosure to the SEC was necessary to prevent imminent misconduct from causing substantial financial harm to the company or investors,” the SEC said.

The whistleblower will receive between $1.4 million and $1.6 million, the agency said.

Wednesday’s award is the second the SEC has made to an employee with internal audit or compliance responsibilities.

In September last year, the SEC awarded about $300,000 to a company audit and compliance employee who complained to the SEC after the company didn’t act on the same information.

After that award, Sean McKessy, chief of the SEC’s whistleblower office, said employees who perform internal audit, compliance, and legal functions can be eligible for an SEC whistleblower award “if their companies fail to take appropriate, timely action on information they first reported internally.”

Whistleblower awards can range from 10 percent to 30 percent of the money collected in a successful enforcement action with penalties of more than a $1 million. 

By law, the SEC has to protect the confidentiality of whistleblowers and can’t disclose information that might directly or indirectly reveal their identities.

Since the launch of its whistleblower award program in 2011, the SEC has paid more than $50 million to 16 whistleblowers who provided “unique and useful information that contributed to a successful enforcement action.”

Andrew Ceresney, chief of the SEC’s enforcement division, said in a statement Wednesday: “This compliance officer reported misconduct after responsible management at the entity became aware of potentially impending harm to investors and failed to take steps to prevent it.”

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The SEC’s redacted Order Determining Whistleblower Award Claim (Securities Exchange Act of 1934 Release No. 74781 and Whistleblower Award Proceeding File No. 2015-2) dated April 22, 2015 is here (pdf).


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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