SEC Pays Eight Whistleblowers $38 Million as Sanctions Reach $4.2 Billion in FY2015

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed 807 cases in fiscal year 2015 for a total of $4.19 billion in disgorgement and penalties. It also paid approximately $38 million to eight whistleblowers for information provided in tips to the SEC Whistleblower Office.

The annual release by the SEC highlighted a number of actions in cases that have not been brought before, including an FCPA action against a financial institution and a case concerning insufficient disclosures by the operator of a dark pool.

Accurate financial reporting was a major focus of the securities regulator. In the past two years, the SEC has doubled the number of enforcement actions concerning financial reporting and audits. These included an action against Bankrate for manipulating financial results to meet analyst expectations, an audit firm for providing false and unqualified opinions concerning a client, and …

There was only one Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) case at the SEC over $100 million in the past year, which was the enforcement action against Avon for its conduct in China. The average enforcement action seems like it was between $10 and $25 million, with the combined DOJ/SEC action against Bio-Rad standing out as an outlier at $55 million. While we are discussing FCPA cases, it is worth noting that the largest case of the year was solely within the realm of the DOJ. Its prosecution of Alstom yielded a fine of $772 million.

For whistleblowers, the SEC also included the enforcement action against KBR for violating Rule 21F-17, which prohibits confidentiality agreements which could stifle whistleblowing communications to the SEC. The SEC will separately send a more detailed report to Congress on the success of its whistleblower program in the past fiscal year. This past year included the first whistleblower award in a retaliation case, the third largest award ($3 million in a complex fraud case), and another award to a compliance officer.

The SEC release is available here.

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