The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced that they have awarded upwards of $37 million to one whistleblower in 2022. This individual gave important information to the SEC that led to a successful enforcement action against a large European healthcare company. This award took the cake for being the highest payout to a whistleblower in 2022. What does a whistleblower program look like from the regulator’s point of view and why is it important?
A Blizzard of Controversy: Activision-Blizzard Settles with the SEC Amid Controversy Jacob Taylor Associate Blogger Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2024 Activision-Blizzard became one of the largest gaming companies in the world after the merger between the two companies in 2008. The company is known for its games, and more recently for …
For compliance programs to be effective, bad behavior must be reported internally to management and an avenue must exist to report externally to regulators and the media. For whistleblowers to be willing to come forward, it is critical that they are protected.
Whistleblowing – a powerful weapon in the arsenal of defense against fraud – is a highly effective tool utilized by the government to enforce regulatory compliance. Nevertheless, many employees remain hesitant to initiate criminal proceedings. In 2021, in an effort to dispel such concerns and to empower potential whistleblowers to take action, Congress enacted the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).
Recently, whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee that Facebook has been deliberately putting its own profits before users’ safety. As Facebook’s former product manager for civic misinformation, Haugen calls for federal regulation of social media platforms and asserts that Facebook will not solve what she calls a “crisis” of deliberately ignoring users’ wellbeing for the sake of its own profits without Congress’s help. She points to tobacco, automobiles, and opioids, stating that when it became clear that those products were harming people, the government took action.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reached a rather auspicious milestone in September when it announced that, with the addition of two recent awards totaling $114 million, the aggregate amount of monies paid out under the SEC’s whistleblower program since its implementation in 2011 has exceeded $1 billion. In fiscal year 2021 alone, the SEC has awarded a record $500 million. The SEC also reported that award payments have been made to a total of 207 whistleblowers. In a statement, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said, “[This] announcement underscores the important role that whistleblowers play in helping the SEC detect, investigate and prosecute potential violations of the securities laws.” The two most recent awards included a payment of $110 million to an individual who, according to the SEC, provided the SEC and another regulatory agency with “independent analysis that substantially advanced the SEC’s and the other agency’s investigation” and culminated in successful enforcement actions. Another whistleblower also provided original information to the SEC and received an award of approximately $4 million, although the smaller amount reflects the fact that the information passed on was significantly more limited in scope. As is its standard policy, the SEC declined to specifically name either of the whistleblowers involved or the cases and companies to which they were connected.
Whistleblowers are crucial to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) ability to enforce regulatory standards. Because of their knowledge, they can help the SEC protect investors and capital markets, as well as hold those performing unlawful conduct accountable. Through Section 21F of the Exchange Act the SEC has power to award whistleblowers for the information they provide. Last month, an amendment was added to this section altering the rules of whistleblower award allocations.
In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court on February 22, 2018 decided Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Paul Somers, a case challenging the definition of a whistleblower under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly referred to as Dodd-Frank. The court held that “Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation provision does not extend to an individual, like Somers, who has not reported a violation of the securities laws to the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission].” This is a narrowing of the definition of whistleblower and as such has a number of implications for companies and their compliance departments.
The United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) recently intervened in a qui tam action against UnitedHealth Group (“United”) and its subsidiary, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, the nation’s largest provider of Medicare Advantage (“MA”) Plans. The suit alleges that United engaged in an “up-coding” scheme to receive higher payments than they should have under MA’s risk adjustment program. Assuming these allegations of United’s false claims are true, then United billed and received hundreds of millions of dollars in improper payments from Medicare.
Lauren Rushing Associate Editor Loyola University Chicago School of Law, J.D. 2018 In the span of one week, two financial services companies paid penalty fees to the Securities and Exchange Commission for intentionally undercutting the Whistleblower Program. Impeding whistleblower communication is averse to quashing misconduct in the marketplace, which is the program’s main goal. …