SEC gets more than 3,000 whistleblower program tips

Thu Nov 15, 2012 5:55pm EST

A sign for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is pictured in the foyer of the Fort Worth Regional Office in Fort Worth, Texas June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Stone

A sign for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is pictured in the foyer of the Fort Worth Regional Office in Fort Worth, Texas June 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Stone

(Reuters) - The Securities and Exchange Commission received more than 3,000 tips during the 2012 fiscal year through its new whistleblower program that encourages people to tell regulators about securities fraud, the agency reported on Thursday.

Tips from the program, created under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, came from all 50 states and from 49 countries, according to the SEC report.

"Whistleblowers are now coming forward who in the past might have remained silent," said former SEC assistant director Jordan Thomas, who now chairs the whistleblower representation practice at Labaton Sucharow in New York.

"The SEC whistleblower submissions could fully populate the SEC pipeline for several years," said Thomas, who helped form the current SEC whistleblower provisions.

The most common complaint category, roughly 18 percent of those filed, related to corporate disclosures and financials. Offering fraud and manipulation were the second and third most common complaint categories.

California, with 435 tips, was the U.S. state where the most tips originated, followed by New York, which had 246 tips. Among those from outside countries, the most originated in United Kingdom, which had 74 tips, followed by Canada, which had 46.

SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro called the program a "valuable tool" in helping to ferret out financial fraud.

"When insiders provide us with high-quality road maps of fraudulent wrongdoing, it reduces the length of time we spend investigating and saves the agency substantial resources," Schapiro said in a statement.

Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC can compensate whistleblowers whose tips about possible securities law violations lead to an SEC enforcement action with more than $1 million in monetary sanctions.

The SEC can pay the whistleblower 10 to 30 percent of the sanctions collected. That could mean a payout of $100,000 to $300,000 for the collection of a $1 million sanction.

In August, the SEC said it approved a reward of nearly $50,000 for a whistleblower who turned over documents and other information to help stop a multi-million dollar fraud, the first award in the program.

The tipster received 30 percent of about $150,000 collected so far, out of more than $1 million in sanctions imposed.

The U.S. government's fiscal year ended on September 30.

(Reporting By Ashley Lau in New York; Editing by Tim Dobbyn and David Gregorio)

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