Just more than a year after the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was signed into law, the Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has established a new office to handle one of the major provisions of the act. The Office of the Whistleblower was publicly launched last week.
To aid in the submission of whistleblower tips, the new office has created a website that provides details on how whistleblowers should provide information and what whistleblowers should expect.
According to the website the SEC, “… is authorized by Congress to provide monetary awards to eligible individuals who come forward with high-quality original information that leads to a Commission enforcement action in which over $1,000,000 in sanctions is ordered. The range for awards is between 10% and 30% of the money collected.” Potential whistleblowers are encouraged to report their issue through a company's internal compliance program before contacting the SEC. In fact, according to the final rules, the SEC will consider increasing the overall award amount if the whistleblower utilizes the company's own internal compliance channels. The following is an excerpt from the SEC's whistleblower rule book.
The Commission will assess whether, and the extent to which, the whistleblower and any legal representative of the whistleblower participated in internal compliance systems. In considering this factor, the Commission may take into account, among other things:
(i) Whether, and the extent to which, a whistleblower reported the possible securities violations through internal whistleblower, legal or compliance procedures before, or at the same time as, reporting them to the Commission; and
(ii) Whether, and the extent to which, a whistleblower assisted any internal investigation or inquiry concerning the reported securities violations.
Companies should use this opportunity to communicate the importance of reporting issues through internal channels before reporting to the SEC. For those companies that do not have a well constructed compliance program, now is the time to build one.