In March the SEC made its biggest-ever whistleblower award. It gave one person more than $33 million and in the same case split nearly $50 million between two others. The previous high for an SEC award to a single whistleblower was $30 million in 2014. All three whistleblowers were represented by the law firm of Labaton Sucharow and the awards were based upon SEC enforcement actions against Merrill Lynch. Today, I have with me Steve Durham, a partner at the firm to talk about the awards and its implications in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Digital Realty Trust v. Somers. 

There are several key points to take away from the awards which we discuss. Initially the awards were divided into two separate awards; one to two individuals for $50 million and a second of $33 million to one individual. We discuss what is original information in the eyes of the SEC which can qualify for an award. In the award, the SEC noted the initial two whistleblowers could have received a higher amount if their information had been more timely delivered to the SEC, which is as soon as they were learned of the misconduct. This timing issue is critical not only to help set the amount of the award but also to establish a whistleblower is qualified to receive an award as there were other individuals who stepped forward later with the same or similar information.

We also explore where the SEC is in its overall whistleblower award program. Durham believes there are several large whistleblower awards in the SEC pipeline and that the SEC Whistleblower program has been an overall success. Even with the Congressional attacks on Dodd-Frank, there is no call to reform this part of the law.

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