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Former Deutsche Bank whistleblower awarded $200 mln record payout, sources say

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Signage is seen outside of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 30, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/Files

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WASHINGTON/FRANKFURT, Oct 22 (Reuters) - A U.S. regulator has handed a record reward of almost $200 million to a whistleblower who provided key information about global benchmark manipulation, with sources familiar with the matter identifying the recipient as a former Deutsche Bank employee.

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced the award on Thursday, without disclosing details about the whistleblower or the case. It said the award was for "nearly $200 million".

Law firm Kirby McInerney LLP said one of its clients received the record bounty after providing extensive information and documents in 2012 that "catalyzed" investigations by the CFTC and a foreign regulator into benchmark manipulation.

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A Kirby McInerny attorney declined to identify the whistleblower or the case.

Two sources told Reuters the whistleblower had previously worked for Deutsche Bank. Spokespeople for the German bank and for the CFTC declined to comment.

In the past decade, authorities globally have levied multibillion-dollar fines and pursued criminal charges against banks and traders for banding together to rig global benchmarks, most notoriously the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). U.S. and British authorities fined Deutsche Bank $2.5 billion in 2015 over the rate-rigging scandal.

David Kovel, the whistleblower attorney from Kirby McInerney, said: "The whistleblower award amount may seem shocking but it's because the ability to manipulate and make huge profits is shocking. It follows from the misconduct."

The unprecedented scale of the award wreaked havoc at the CFTC, threatening to bankrupt its whistleblower program and forcing U.S. lawmakers to authorize emergency funding in July. The Wall Street Journal first reported the issues in May, and at the time identified Kovel as the attorney for the ex-Deutsche Bank tipster.

The largest whistleblower award given by the CFTC's larger and better-funded counterpart that oversees securities markets, the Securities and Exchange Commission, totaled over $114 million, by comparison.

The amount, the largest for any government whistleblower program, was "mind-blowing", Erika Kelton, a whistleblower attorney with Phillips & Cohen LLP, said in a statement.

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Reporting by Chris Prentice; Additional reporting by Tom Sims in Frankfurt; Editing by Sam Holmes and Edmund Blair and Hugh Lawson

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