This past week the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Office of the Whistleblower (OWB) released its 2015 annual report. This report listed the payouts for whistleblowers, the whistleblower program’s growth, and other highlights for the 2015 fiscal year.
Since the new whistleblower rules went into effect in August 2011, the SEC has paid more than $54 million to 22 whistleblowers. More than $37 million was paid to reward whistleblowers in the fiscal year of 2015 alone. This $37 million displays the tremendous growth the whistleblower program is experiencing. The SEC received almost 4,000 tips in fiscal 2015, which is a 30 percent increase from 2012.
This growth is a result of (1) the SEC working diligently in educating the public about the whistleblower program and (2) acting to protect whistleblowers from retaliation.
OWB stated that one of its primary goals is to increase public awareness of the SEC’s whistleblower program. In fiscal 2015, OWB staff promoted and educated the public about the whistleblower program by participating in 20 public engagements. OWB continues to actively pursue that goal by participating in webinars, media interviews, and presentations, and by distributing press releases.
These educational outreaches continue to generate a high percentage of tips as the public is made aware of the whistleblower program. As more people are being educated about the whistleblower program, the government is able to detect, deter and prosecute more fraud.
Another reason for the high increase of tips for fiscal 2015 is the measures the SEC has taken to insure whistleblower protection. In 2011, when the SEC issued the whistleblower Rules, it attempted to make it clear that the protection from employment retaliation applied to when a whistleblower reported potential fraud internally to a supervisor and not just when the whistleblower reported the potential fraud directly to the SEC.
Even with these efforts to clarify the protection, some circuit courts held that whistleblowers received no protection when they did not report directly to the SEC.
The SEC, on Aug. 4, 2015, released an interpretive guide clarifying the anti-retaliation provisions. The SEC also submitted amicus curiae briefs to urge the court of appeals to defer to the SEC’s rule. In doing so, the SEC worked hard to ensure that employees are protected from employment retaliation whenever they report – internally to a supervisor or directly to the SEC.
The SEC stated, “We want whistleblowers ― and their employers ― to know that employees are free to come forward without fear of reprisal.”
Sept. 30, 2015, marked the end of a successful fiscal year for the SEC’s whistleblower program. In fiscal 2015, the SEC received 4,000 tips and paid out $37 million in rewards to whistleblowers. As the OWB continues to pursue its purpose of educating the public, fiscal 2016 will likely see similar results.
Are you aware of fraud being committed against the federal government, or a state government? If so, the False Claims Act (FCA) can protect and reward you for doing the right thing by reporting the fraud. If you have any questions about whether you qualify as a whistleblower, please contact an attorney at Beasley Allen for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim.