SEC Proposes Limit on Whistleblower Payouts

The SEC is looking to limit whistleblower payouts after doling out tens of millions of dollars in a recent case. The SEC voted 3-2 to propose a limit after an $83 million award was given back in March to three informants – the largest payday in the history of the SEC’s whistleblower program.

Under the current rules, awards are made in an amount equal to 10 to 30 percent of the monetary sanctions collected. Information provided by whistleblowers has led to enforcement actions in which the Commission has ordered over $1.4 billion in financial remedies, including more than $740 million in disgorgement of ill-gotten gains and interest, the majority of which has been, or is scheduled to be, returned to harmed investors.

Historically, over 60% of the awards given out in our whistleblower program have been less than $2 million.  In the context of potential awards that could yield a payout of less than $2 million to a whistleblower, the proposed rules would authorize the Commission in its discretion to adjust the award percentage upward under certain circumstances (subject to the 30% statutory maximum) to an amount up to $2 million.

According to the SEC, 40% of the aggregate funds paid by the Commission to whistleblowers have been paid out in only three awards.  In the context of potential awards that could yield total collected monetary sanctions of at least $100 million, the proposed rules would authorize the Commission in its discretion to adjust the award percentage so that it would yield a payout (subject to the 10% statutory minimum) that does not exceed an amount that is reasonably necessary to reward the whistleblower and to incentivize other similarly situated whistleblowers.  However, in no event would the award be adjusted below $30 million.

Proposed new subparagraph (e) to Exchange Act Rule 21F-8 would also clarify the Commission’s ability to bar individuals from submitting whistleblower award applications where they are found to have submitted false information to the Commission, as well as to afford the Commission with the ability to bar individuals who repeatedly make frivolous award claims in Commission actions.

To read the complete rule, click here.