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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • SEC Announces $22 Million-Plus Whistleblower Award; Program Surpasses $100 Million in Awards


    On August 30, the SEC announced that a whistleblower will receive more than $22 million for providing the SEC with a “detailed tip and extensive assistance” to help the agency uncover “well-hidden” securities fraud at the whistleblower’s company. The $22 million-plus award is the second largest SEC whistleblower award, following a $30 million award in September 2014. The SEC began the whistleblower program in 2011 and announced its first award in August 2012. Since then, the agency’s program has surpassed $100 million in total money awarded. More than 14,000 whistleblower tips have been submitted to the Whistleblower Office, with a total of 33 whistleblowers receiving monetary awards.

    Fraud SEC Whistleblower

  • SEC Awards At Least $5 Million to Whistleblower


    On May 17, the SEC announced that a former company insider will receive between $5 million and $6 million for providing a “detailed tip” that led the agency to uncover securities violations. According to the SEC, without the whistleblower’s information, the violations would have been “nearly impossible” to detect. Since the SEC started its whistleblower program in 2011, the agency has awarded more than $67 million to 29 whistleblowers. The SEC’s most recent award is its third highest and follows a $3.5 million award announced last week.

    SEC Whistleblower

  • SEC Reports on Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program


    On November 16, the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower (OWB) issued its 2015 annual report to Congress on its Whistleblower Program established pursuant to Dodd-Frank. According to the report, in Fiscal Year 2015, the OWB received more than 3,900 whistleblower tips – a 30% increase since 2012, which the SEC attributes to increased public awareness of the program due to Dodd Frank’s implementing rule awarding tipsters 10 to 30 percent of a securities violation when the penalty is greater than $1 million. Additional items to note from the report include: (i) the SEC brought its first enforcement action against a company for using language in confidentiality agreements that impeded a whistleblower from reporting possible securities law violations; (ii) the SEC received whistleblower submissions from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, along with tips from individuals in 95 countries outside of the U.S.; and (iii) the most common complaint categories reported were Corporate Disclosures and Financials, followed by Offering Fraud and Manipulation.

    SEC Whistleblower

  • SEC Announces Whistleblower Award to Compliance Officer, Over $1 Million Dollars


    On April 22, the SEC announced an award of more than $1 million to a compliance officer for providing the agency with information on the company’s misconduct. The Dodd-Frank Act whistleblower regime is designed to encourage employees to submit evidence of securities fraud. When sanctions of a successful enforcement action exceed $1 million, the program allows for up to 30 percent of the money collected to be provided to the whistleblower. Since the program began in 2011, 16 whistleblowers have received upwards of $50 million from an investor protection fund, which was established by Congress and is financed through the monetary sanctions the SEC receives from securities law violators.

    Dodd-Frank SEC Whistleblower

  • New York AG Set to Propose Whistleblower Legislation

    State Issues

    On February 26, New York AG Eric Schneiderman announced that he intends to propose state legislation to reward and protect employees who report information about misconduct in the banking, insurance, and financial services industries. The “Financial Frauds Whistleblower Act” would allow for compensation to individuals who voluntarily report fraud, and whose information results in more than $1 million in penalties or settlement. In addition, the legislation would prohibit retaliation from the employer and guarantee the confidentiality of the whistleblower’s information.



  • DOJ Settles False Claims Act Allegations Against Pharmaceutical Manufacturer

    Federal Issues

    On February 11, the DOJ announced a $7.9 million settlement with a Delaware-based pharmaceutical manufacturer for allegedly violating the False Claims Act by engaging in a kickback scheme with a pharmacy benefits manager corporation. The pharmaceutical manufacturer denies the DOJ’s allegations that it paid $40 million to a pharmacy benefits manager corporation in exchange for “sole and exclusive” recommendation of a certain drug. According to the two whistleblowers, both former employees for the accused pharmaceutical manufacturer, the accused manufacturer paid the pharmacy benefits manager “through price concessions on [other] drugs.” Under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, the two former employees will receive a combined payment of $1,422,000.

    DOJ Whistleblower False Claims Act / FIRREA

  • FINRA Issues Guidance Notice To Warn Against Settlements Barring Whistleblower Tips


    This month, FINRA issued guidance notice 14-40 to remind firms that “it is a violation of FINRA Rule 2010 (Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade) to include confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements or any other documents, including confidentiality stipulations made during a FINRA arbitration proceeding, that prohibit or restrict a customer or any other person from communicating with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), FINRA, or any federal or state regulatory authority regarding a possible securities law violation.” Additionally, the notice addresses FINRA’s Code of Arbitration Procedure for Customer Disputes, emphasizing that the parties involved in the arbitration discovery process must “cooperate with each other to the fullest extent practicable in the voluntary exchange of documents and information to expedite the arbitration process.” FINRA further specifies that “stipulations between the parties or confidentiality orders issued by an arbitrator as part of the discovery process regarding the non-disclosure of the documents in question outside the arbitration of the particular case do not restrict or prohibit the disclosure of the documents to the SEC, FINRA, any other self-regulatory organization, or any other state or federal regulatory authority.”

    FINRA SEC Whistleblower

  • SEC Delegates Authority to Invest Whistle-Blower Fund


    On September 26, the SEC amended its rules to delegate authority to its CFO, Kenneth Johnson, to request that the Treasury Secretary invest a portion of the SEC’s Investor Protection Fund. The fund, comprised of over $439 million as of FY 2013, is used to award whistleblowers and fund certain IG activities. Johnson’s discretion includes determining what portion of the Fund’s monies are not required to meet current needs and thus available for investment as well as which investment maturities are most suitable. The SEC anticipates this amendment, effective September 29, 2014, will “streamline” its operations.

    SEC Whistleblower

  • SEC Announces Largest Whistle-Blower Award In Program's History


    On September 22, the SEC announced that it expects to award more than $30 million to a whistleblower who provided key information in connection with an ongoing fraud enforcement action. The award will be the largest to date for the SEC’s whistleblower program and the fourth award to a whistleblower living overseas. The program offers rewards to whistleblowers who provide high-quality, original information that results in an SEC enforcement action with sanctions exceeding $1 million. Awards are funded by an investor protection fund established by Congress and financed by sanctions imposed on securities law violators. Awards can range from ten to thirty percent of the money collected from the enforcement action.

    SEC Whistleblower

  • Attorney General Holder Comments on Financial Fraud and the DOJ's Concern for Action

    Financial Crimes

    On September 17, Attorney General Holder commented on the DOJ’s efforts to pursue criminal activity against corporate financial fraud. Specifically, Holder argued for Congress to modify the FIRREA whistleblower provision by increasing the $1.6 million cap on awards, possibly to False Claims Act levels, so that there is greater “individual cooperation.” Currently, under the False Claims Act, an individual whistleblower can receive up to 30 percent of a sanction. In addition to Holder’s focus on increasing the award whistleblowers are given, he referenced the significance the DOJ places on investigating the individual executives at financial firms for criminal activity, stating that the department “recognizes the inherent value of bringing enforcement actions against individuals, as opposed to simply the companies that employ them.” Holder identified the following three main reasons for its continued efforts in pursuing both the individuals and the companies: (i) accountability – the department is focused on identifying the “decision-makers at the company who ought to be held responsible” for corporate misconduct; (ii) fairness – the company should not solely endure the punishment when “the misconduct is the work of a known bad actor, or a handful of known bad actors”; and (iii) the deterrent effect – while an individual person found guilty of a fraud crime will likely go to prison, there are few things that discourage a company from performing illegal activity.

    DOJ Whistleblower False Claims Act / FIRREA


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