Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On June 4, the SEC announced a nearly $50 million award to a whistleblower in an enforcement action, the largest amount ever awarded to one individual under the SEC’s whistleblower program. According to the SEC’s order, in applying the reward criteria, the SEC determined that the whistleblower (i) provided information that was “highly significant” and contained first-hand observations of misconduct that was previously unknown; (ii) laid out “in detail substantial aspects” of the misconduct and provided a roadmap for the SEC’s investigation; and (iii) provided information that helped the SEC return a significant amount of money to those harmed by the misconduct. The agency’s next largest awards were given in 2018 when the SEC awarded $50 million to two joint whistleblowers in March and $39 million to a single whistleblower in September, covered by InfoBytes here and here.
As of June 4, the SEC has awarded 83 individuals a total of over $500 million in whistleblower awards since its first award in 2012.
On May 4, the SEC announced a nearly $2 million award to a whistleblower in an enforcement action. According to the SEC’s press release, the whistleblower’s “information and assistance helped the agency bring a successful enforcement action and allowed investors to recover much of their money.” The formal order also states that the whistleblower, among other things, provided new information regarding an investigation into ongoing fraud, which informed the SEC’s need to “expeditiously seek a temporary restraining order and asset freeze to prevent further investor loss.” The whistleblower also suffered hardships.
As of May 4, the SEC has awarded 82 individuals a total of approximately $450 million in whistleblower awards since its first award in 2012.
On April 28, the SEC announced an award of more than $18 million to a whistleblower in an enforcement action. According to the SEC’s press release, the whistleblower’s “significant information prompted an examination that resulted in an important enforcement action.” The formal order also states that the whistleblower, among other things, relayed information that alerted SEC staff to potential securities violations, and repeatedly raised concerns internally “in an attempt to immediately correct the problem,” which led to the whistleblower suffering hardships as a result. The SEC further emphasizes that the enforcement action resulted in millions of dollars being returned to retail investors.
As of April 28, the SEC has awarded 81 individuals a total of approximately $448 million in whistleblower awards since its first award in 2012.
On April 20, the SEC announced a $5 million award to a whistleblower in an enforcement action. According to the SEC’s press release, the whistleblower “provided critical evidence of wrongdoing, which helped save time and resources in the SEC’s investigation.” The formal order also states that the whistleblower “promptly reported the information” and “suffered a unique hardship” by being terminated shortly after raising concerns internally.
Earlier on April 16, the SEC announced an award of more than $27 million to a whistleblower in an enforcement action. According to the SEC’s press release, the whistleblower provided “critical investigative leads,” tied in part to misconduct occurring overseas, that “advanced the investigation and saved significant Commission resources.” The formal order also stated that the whistleblower, among other things, provided substantial assistance and cooperation, relayed information that “helped the Commission further significant law enforcement interests,” and “repeatedly and strenuously” raised concerns about internal misconduct within the whistleblower’s organization. The award is the sixth largest overall award since the program began.
According to the SEC, as of April 20 it has awarded 80 individuals a total of approximately $430 million in whistleblower awards since its first award in 2012.
On April 3, the SEC announced an approximately $2 million award to a whistleblower in an enforcement action. According to the SEC’s press release, the whistleblower “provided vital information and assistance that substantially contributed to an ongoing investigation” that would otherwise have “been difficult for the agency to obtain absent the tip.” The formal order also states that the whistleblower “expeditiously reported the information” despite implied threats and suffering hardships, and that the law-enforcement interests in this investigation were high.
As of April 3, the SEC has awarded 78 individuals a total of approximately $398 million in whistleblower awards since its first award in 2012.
On March 30, the SEC announced a $450,000 award to a whistleblower in an enforcement action. According to the formal order, the whistleblower—who had compliance-related responsibilities at the company at issue in the enforcement action—suffered “unique hardships” after first attempting to report concerns within the company’s internal compliance structure. The whistleblower then reported the information to the SEC following the required 120-day time waiting period, which ultimately provided assistance to the SEC’s investigation and successful enforcement action. The SEC stated in its press release that this is the third whistleblower award given to an individual with compliance or internal audit responsibilities. As of March 30, the SEC has awarded 77 individuals a total of approximately $396 million in whistleblower awards since its first award in 2012.
On March 24, the SEC announced awards of over $570,000 to two whistleblowers for providing “significant information and assistance that helped the Commission bring multiple successful enforcement actions.” According to the formal order, the first whistleblower received an award of approximately $478,000, and the second whistleblower received an award of approximately $94,000. The SEC stated that the first whistleblower’s award was substantially higher because the information (i) helped the SEC bring antifraud charges related to conduct that was ongoing at the time the whistleblower reported the information to the SEC; (ii) played a critical role in the development of the case; and (iii) related to all the enforcement actions. In comparison, the second whistleblower’s information—while important—contributed to charges brought against only one of the respondents, the SEC stated.
Earlier on March 23, the SEC announced an award of over $1.6 million to a whistleblower in an enforcement action. According to the SEC’s press release, the whistleblower “provided helpful assistance early in the investigation, preserving Commission time and resources,” and “helped form part of the basis for charges brought in a successful enforcement action.” The formal order—which acknowledged that the allegations reported by the whistleblower “would have been hard to detect”—stated, however, that while the whistleblower “unreasonably delayed” reporting the allegations, the SEC chose not to factor in the delay as severely as it might have done had the delay occurred entirely after the Dodd-Frank Act established the whistleblower award program.
The SEC’s March 24 press release states that it has awarded 76 individuals a total of approximately $396 million in whistleblower awards since its initial award in 2012.
CFPB announces advisory opinion program, updates business conduct bulletin, proposes whistleblower award legislation
On March 6, the CFPB announced three new measures it is undertaking to prevent customer harm, including (i) implementing an advisory opinion program; (ii) updating its bulletin regarding responsible business conduct; and (iii) advancing whistleblower award legislation through engagement with Congress. Details of each measure are as follows:
- Advisory Opinion Program. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Bureau issued three new innovation policies last September to reduce regulatory uncertainty and improve compliance. Similarly, the Bureau’s March 6 announcement states that the advisory opinion program should “provide clear guidance to assist companies in better understanding their legal and regulatory obligations.” The program directs that requests for advisory opinions should be submitted through the CFPB website. The opinions will then be published in the Federal Register and on its website.
- Responsible Business Conduct Bulletin. The amended bulletin, originally released in 2013, “clarif[ies] [the Bureau’s] approach to responsible business conduct” and emphasizes “the importance of such conduct.” The updated bulletin presents four categories of “responsible conduct” that entities are encouraged to adopt to improve the culture of compliance and that the CFPB will use to evaluate whether credit is warranted in an enforcement investigation or supervisory matter, including (i) self-assessment; (ii) self-reporting; (iii) remediation; and (iv) cooperation.
- Whistleblower Award Legislation. The proposed legislative language would amend Title X of the Dodd-Frank Act and authorize the Bureau to create a whistleblower award program. For individuals that volunteer information leading to a “successful enforcement action,” the program would enable the Bureau to provide a monetary award of between 10 to 30 percent of the collected penalty amount, up to $10 million.
On February 28, the SEC announced an award of over $7 million to a whistleblower in an enforcement action. According to the SEC’s press release, the whistleblower “provided extensive and sustained assistance, such as identifying witnesses,” which was “critically important to the success of [the] enforcement action.” The formal order also states that the whistleblower helped the SEC “understand complex fact patterns” and that “[t]he whistleblower’s information and assistance helped the SEC staff devise an investigative plan, craft document requests, and ultimately bring an important enforcement action focusing on serious financial abuses.”
The SEC’s press release states that it has awarded 73 individuals a total of approximately $394 million in whistleblower awards since 2012.
On February 11, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a relator’s False Claims Act claims, which alleged that a group of prime private student loan debt collectors (defendants) defrauded the federal government of funds intended for small businesses in relation to contracts to service student loans with the Department of Education (Department). The 2015 lawsuit filed by the relator accused the defendants of, among other things, allegedly concealing that “the purportedly small business subcontractors were affiliated with ‘co-conspirator’ larger businesses, ‘making them ineligible to be claimed as small businesses by the prime contractors on the [Department’s private collection agency] task orders.’” The relator also claimed that the defendants convinced the Department to award contracts and provide bonuses they did not deserve. According to the relator, the defendants made claims that hinged “on the factual allegation of undisclosed affiliation and associated submission of false claims and/or misrepresentations concerning business size.”
In the order, the court determined, among other things, that the relator fell short of alleging the specific facts necessary to convince the court that the defendants engaged in fraudulent inducement and implied certification. The court held that “despite [the relator’s] contrary contentions, [the relator’s] pleading does not establish with the requisite particularity the time and place of the false misrepresentations, what constitutes the allegedly false claim for each discrete defendant, and what, precisely, ‘was retained or given up as a consequence of the fraud.’” Specifically, the court stated that the relator “fail[ed] to connect several critical dots in the alleged scheme, leaving the [c]ourt unclear as to what, precisely, was allegedly actionably false and/or fraudulent.” However, the court allowed the relator leave to file an amended complaint, stating that “because the allegation of further facts might cure the identified deficiencies (although the [c]ourt has its doubts, given the length of the investigation and [the relator’s] counsel’s central role in the investigation), the [c]ourt sees no reason to deviate from the general rule [allowing leave].”
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Wait wait ... do tell me! Where the panelists answer to you" at the ACAMS AML & Anti-Financial Crime Conference
- Matthew P. Previn and Walter E. Zalenski to discuss "Is valid when made ... valid?" at the Women in Housing & Finance Partner Series webinar
- Warren W. Traiger and Caroline K. Eisner to discuss "CRA modernization and the OCC final rule" at CBA Live
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "Transnational corruption: A chat with former U.S. federal prosecutors in New York" at Marval Live Talks
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk and Lauren Frank to discuss "New CFPB interpretation on UDAAP" at a California Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Quality and Compliance Committee webinar
- Daniel R. Alonso to moderate "Regional anti-corruption enforcement colloquium" at the Latin Lawyer GIR Interactive Anti-Corruption & Investigations
- APROVED Webcast: 20 for the ’20s: What the coming decade holds for MLO licensing
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "NMLS mortgage call report – Where’s NMLS 2.0?" at the QuestSoft Lending Compliance Conference
- Thomas A. Sporkin to discuss "Managing internal investigations and advanced government defense" at the Securities Enforcement Forum
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Mortgage servicing in a recession: Early intervention, loss mitigation and more" at the NAFCU Virtual Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "Independent monitoring in the United States" at the World Compliance Association Peru Chapter IV International Conference on Compliance and the Fight Against Corruption
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "The future of fair lending" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "Pandemic fallout – Navigating practical operational challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute