Have you recently uncovered an investment scheme or other type of securities fraud? If so, an experienced SEC whistleblower attorney may be able to help you with bringing your information to light and provide you the opportunity to win a reward.
When you first discover that someone you work with—a supervisor, your boss, or even someone you have no professional association with, for example—is committing or engaging in fraudulent activities, it can be overwhelming.
The internal battle over whether you should come forward and report your tip can be grueling, but ultimately, putting a stop to securities violations is the right thing to do—for everyone other than the fraudster, that is.
At Meissner Associates, we are dedicated to exposing securities violations and investment fraud so investors and the general public don’t lose more than they already have. Your SEC whistleblower lawyer can assist you in reporting your tip to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), protect you from retaliation, and work to ensure that you are issued an award that appropriately reflects your efforts to blow the whistle.
How to Know When to Blow the Whistle
FIguring out whether you have become aware of a securities violation or an investment fraud of sorts can be a challenge in and of itself. The complexity of these cases is what allows the scheming company or individual to get away with it for as long as they do. The SEC does, however, see some types of violations more frequently than others, including the following:
- Insider trading
- Money laundering
- Investment fraud
- FCPA violations
- Stock mispricing
- Ponzi schemes
- Stock manipulation
- Fraudulent disclosures
- Undisclosed hacking and cybersecurity breach
These are just a few of the most common scams people in the securities industry commit, and they are always coming up with ways to defraud the system in other ways. If you have information regarding any of the previously mentioned securities violations, or another scam entirely, it would be well-advised to consult your attorney about blowing the whistle.
The Risks of Becoming a Whistleblower
If you are considering blowing the whistle but have concerns about what could happen at work, you are not alone. Many would-be whistleblowers do not report their tips due to the fear of being retaliated against. Retaliation can take many forms including demotion, termination, harassment, intimidation, and being subjected to a hostile work environment, for example.
Fortunately, both the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act have included provisions that explicitly protect whistleblowers from retaliation, in any form, for becoming a whistleblower. However, just because retaliation is against the law doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Although you can take action after the fact against your employer, that does little to protect you now.
The SEC, understanding these risks, has made it possible for you to report your tip anonymously for this very reason. You must have retained legal representation in order to do so, as your lawyer will be the one handling the exchange of information between you and the SEC.
Your identity can remain completely anonymous throughout the SEC’s investigation, and will only need to become known if or when it is time to issue your whistleblower award.
Requirements for Winning a Whistleblower Award
Nearly anyone can become a whistleblower, but only certain individuals will meet the criteria needed to win a whistleblower award. These requirements consist of the following:
- The whistleblower must come forward voluntarily.
- Any tips provided must be original.
- The SEC must be able to take enforceable action against the individual or company.
- Sanctions recovered must exceed $1 million.
Let’s take a closer look into these qualifying criteria. First, we’ll look at what it means to come forward voluntarily. As you can imagine, the SEC is always investigating new leads surrounding securities violations. As such, an investigation might already be underway for the person or corporation you suspect of engaging in fraud. It is important that you bring forward your information prior to the SEC questioning you.
You may also be wondering what it means for a tip to be considered original. Original tips have two parts: One, you need to be the first whistleblower to come forward with this particular piece of information; and two, your tip needs to have come from a non-public source. Hearing rumors at work, internal documents, and financial statements, for example, are non-public sources.
Finally, the last two requirements are the SEC being able to take enforceable action and recovering sanctions exceeding $1 million. The more valuable information you provide to the SEC, the more likely they are to be successful in imposing sanctions. The good news is that, depending on how valuable your tip was to the outcome of the SEC’s investigation, you could be awarded up to 30 percent of the recovered sanctions.
SEC Whistleblower FAQ
The thought of blowing the whistle can be daunting, and you more than likely have plenty of questions about the whistleblowing process and what to expect moving forward.
With that in mind, we have gone into further detail about some of the most common questions potential whistleblowers have had below. If you have a question that was not answered on this page, please reach out to our firm directly so we can discuss the individual details of your whistleblower case.
How will I know if I’m entitled to a whistleblower award?
The SEC maintains a list known as the Notice of Covered Action. Your attorney will likely become aware of your award eligibility soon after your case has been posted to this list and will inform you about how we go about filing a claim to obtain your award from there.
How long does it take to receive my whistleblower award?
Unfortunately, there is no specific amount of time in which it takes to obtain your award, as every case is different. The SEC needs to first open and complete its investigation, recover sanctions, and then determine how much you are entitled to prior to issuing the award.
In many cases, it can take years before you are awarded the compensation you risked it all for. But it is important to note that many whistleblowers report that taking the risk was worth it in the end.
What happens if I was involved in the securities violation?
That depends on how you were involved. If you orchestrated the scheme, the SEC may not find that you are entitled to a whistleblower award. However, this is not usually the case.
Most whistleblowers were either indirectly involved and began to report their findings once they realized the scheme, or were forced to engage in said fraud. These whistleblowers are generally subject neither to prosecution nor legal action, and can often still collect a whistleblower award.
Discuss Your Tip with a Qualified SEC Whistleblower Attorney
Making the decision to become a whistleblower isn’t going to be easy, but it is the right thing to do. The risk is not necessarily without reward. To learn more about how a highly trained SEC whistleblower lawyer lawyer at Meissner Associates could help you report information surrounding securities violations or investment fraud, come in for a confidential consultation.
We provide free tip reviews to potential whistleblowers across the country. You can schedule yours by submitting the secure contact form included at the bottom of this page or by giving our office a call at 1-866-764-3100.