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SEC pays whistleblower $279mn in largest-ever award

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has paid out its largest-ever award to a whistleblower, almost $279mn, the regulator announced on Friday.

The award is more than double the previous record amount of $114mn, which was announced in October 2020.

In a heavily redacted SEC order dated May 5, the agency did not name the person who was paid the reward, nor did it say which enforcement actions resulted in the payment, a policy designed to protect whistleblowers who want to remain anonymous.

“The whistleblower’s sustained assistance including multiple interviews and written submissions was critical to the success of these actions,” said Nicole Creola Kelly, head of the SEC’s whistleblower office. “While the whistleblower’s information did not prompt the opening of the SEC’s investigation, their information expanded the scope of misconduct charged.”

The SEC’s order said two other people came forward with tips related to the enforcement actions, but the agency did not pay them. One of those people’s information “did not advance or impact the investigation”, the SEC said. Another person’s allegations were “vague” and “insubstantial”.

Established as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank act, the SEC’s whistleblower office is designed to encourage people with information about financial misconduct to help the agency bring cases.

To get paid, whistleblowers must provide information that leads to an SEC enforcement case of more than $1mn. Whistleblowers can be paid between 10 per cent and 30 per cent of the total of the fines collected.

The SEC has said it has paid out more than $1bn since the start of the programme in 2011.

“The size of today’s award — the highest in our programme’s history — not only incentivises whistleblowers to come forward with accurate information about potential securities law violations, but also reflects the tremendous success of our whistleblower programme,” said Gurbir Grewal, head of the SEC’s enforcement division.

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