It pays to be the squeaky wheel at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a pair of whistleblowers has found.

According to its latest whistleblower decision, the SEC paid over US$12 million to two tipsters for providing information and ongoing assistance that led to a successful enforcement action. However, the division of the spoils was contested.

The tipster that provided the information that prompted the SEC to open its investigation in the first place received a US$9 million award, while the other whistleblower received US$3 million.

According to the regulator’s order, the second whistleblower challenged the initial award decision, claiming, among other things, that they were the original source of the information that the first whistleblower reported to the commission.

However, the appeal was rejected.

The commission said that the first whistleblower deserved a larger award because the information they provided was more important to its investigation, and because they reported to the SEC several years before the second whistleblower.

The initial tip exposed information that would have been difficult for the regulator to uncover alone, the decision noted, adding the first tipster provided “extensive and ongoing assistance during the course of the investigation, including identifying witnesses and helping staff understand complex fact patterns and issues.”

The information provided to the SEC by the second tipster was also helpful to the regulator, the decision noted, as it gave enforcement staff “a more complete picture” of the misconduct, which they were able to use in settlement discussions.

But the second tipsters’ assistance was not as important as the tip that first alerted the SEC to the misconduct, the decision said, adding the second tipster “delayed reporting to the commission for several years,” while misconduct was ongoing and investors were being harmed.

Their award was reduced by this “unreasonable delay” in reporting, it noted.

According to the decision, the second tipster also claimed that the first whistleblower promised to share their award, but then reneged on that commitment.

The commission noted that any purported deal between the whistleblowers to share an award “is irrelevant” to the analysis of the “respective award percentages that each should receive.”