Businessman Blowing Whistle Isolated on White Background

Reporting suspected misconduct is paying off in a big way for a tipster who is receiving a record-setting US$279-million award from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The SEC announced its largest ever payout for an enforcement tip, far surpassing the previous record of US$114 million, which was handed out in October 2020.

According to the SEC’s order, the misconduct that was reported by the tipster was already under investigation by the regulator — however, it said that the whistleblower voluntarily provided significant new information that caused it to expand its investigation, saved the regulator time and resources, and provided “substantial, ongoing assistance,” including multiple written submissions, communications and interviews.

Additionally, the tip led to successful enforcement action by both the SEC and another agency, based in part on the information provided by the whistleblower to both the SEC and the other agency.

“The whistleblower’s sustained assistance including multiple interviews and written submissions was critical to the success of these actions,” said Creola Kelly, chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, in a release.

“While the whistleblower’s information did not prompt the opening of the commission’s investigation, their information expanded the scope of misconduct charged,” she added.

The SEC’s whistleblower program pays between 10% and 30% of sanctions collected in a successful enforcement action, but the regulator does not disclose the specific percentage that’s awarded in a particular case.

Two other purported tipsters also made claims for whistleblower awards in the same case, but those claims were denied, and their appeals were also rejected.

In its order, the SEC said that it didn’t learn any new information from the other claimants’ submissions, and that they didn’t cause the regulator to open the investigation, or to move it along.

The size of the US$279-million award “not only incentivizes whistleblowers to come forward with accurate information about potential securities law violations, but also reflects the tremendous success of our whistleblower program,” said Gurbir Grewal, director of the SEC’s enforcement division, in a release.

“This success directly benefits investors, as whistleblower tips have contributed to enforcement actions resulting in orders requiring bad actors to disgorge more than US$4 billion in ill-gotten gains and interest,” he added. “As this award shows, there is a significant incentive for whistleblowers to come forward with accurate information about potential securities law violations.”