Wall Street’s newest millionaires are whistleblowers

Whistleblower lawsuits 4x3
  • The SEC announced awards ranging from $US4 ($AU5) million to $US110 ($AU150) million paid to Wall Street whistleblowers.
  • In total, the watchdog program has paid $US1 ($AU1) billion, awarding 207 whistleblowers since 2012.
  • But not all whistleblowers hit it big – and some never see a single dollar.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission just paid two multi-million dollar awards to Wall Street whistleblowers, according to a statement released Wednesday.

The payouts of $US110 ($AU150) million and $US4 ($AU5) million bring the agency’s whistle-blowing awards to a total of $US1 ($AU1) billion. A record-breaking payment of $US1.4 ($AU2) ($AU155) million was awarded last October.

“The whistleblower program has been instrumental to the success of numerous enforcement actions since it was instituted a decade ago,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, the SEC’s Director of Division of Enforcement.

“We hope that today’s announcement encourages whistleblowers to continue to come forward with credible information about potential violations of the securities laws.”

A total of 207 whistleblowers have received payouts from the SEC since the program began in 2012. In order to qualify for an award, the information provided to the agency must be “original, timely, and credible” and result in “a successful enforcement action.”

All watchdog payments are financed through sanctions paid to the SEC by securities law violators. The awards can be anywhere from 10% to 30% of the money collected from the guilty party if the sanctions exceed $US1 ($AU1) million, according to the SEC.

But not all whistleblowers hit it big – and some never see a single dollar.

John McPherson, a whistleblower who aided the SEC’s investigation into an alleged $US1 ($AU1).4 billion scam at Life Partners Holdings Inc., received zero compensation from the agency, The Wall Street Journal reported this June.

The lack of payment was due to a controversial SEC rule that states whistleblowers cannot be paid if the guilty party declares bankruptcy, which is a common outcome for fraudulent companies.

Effective December of last year, the SEC amended the whistleblower program rules to clarify that awards cannot be sourced from private actions such as bankruptcy.