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SEC whistleblower center received record number of tips in 2018

In every industry, whistleblowers are crucial to identifying and reporting wrongdoing or safety violations. The financial sector is no different. To ferret out securities fraud, the Security and Exchange Commission has a Whistleblower Program to assist informants who notice securities fraud. And 2018 has been the program’s most successful year yet. In the fiscal year 2018, the SEC received a record number of tips that allowed it to recover around $1.7 billion in monetary sanctions.

Why the increase in 2018?

The SEC’s annual report on its Whistleblower Program states that, in addition to having a record year, the program is growing. It received over 5,200 tips in 2018—a 67 percent rise from 2012. It issued $168 million in awards to people who used the program, which is a marked increase from 2017’s award of $50 million. This indicates that 2019 could see an even greater number of tips, and even more award money issued to whistleblowers.

The marked increase in complaints may be the result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Digital Reality Trust, Inc. v. Somers. The court ruled that anyone who reports a securities violation and wishes to receive protection under the Dodd-Frank Act must report to the SEC. Before the Supreme Court’s decision, over 80 percent of whistleblowers reported their complaints internally to employers or colleagues.

The 2018 whistleblowers: Important demographic information

Eighty-six percent of tips to the SEC came from the United States, primarily from California, New York and Texas. Twelve percent were from foreign countries—mostly the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

The study notes another important detail regarding the securities violations tips. The SEC does allow people to file tips anonymously—and 19 percent of whistleblowers in 2019 did so. However, 56 percent of the informants worked with legal representation, which can help uphold whistleblowers’ rights, shield their identities and ensure that proper authorities remedy wrongdoing.