You don't have to be a U.S. citizen to get a whistleblower award. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has paid an Australian and former BHP Billiton employee a $3.75 million whistleblower award for reporting the company’s violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act at the Beijing Olympics, the Sydney Morning Herald announced Monday.
First Time SEC Pays Whistleblower Award to Australian Employee
The BHP Billiton case marks the first time the SEC has paid a whistleblower award to an employee of an Australian company. Under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the SEC offers whistleblowers cash awards for tips leading to successful government recovery. The Australian government does not offer whistleblower rewards or protections to its citizens, and the case is causing regions of Australia to evaluate the possibility of implementing its own whistleblower laws.
In May 2015, BHP Billiton agreed to pay $25 million to the SEC to resolve allegations the company provided government officials with trips to the Beijing Olympics. The former employee of the Australian mining giant supplied “additional evidence of wrongdoing” that aided an ongoing investigation into BHP Billiton’s overseas activities.
As the Australian Federal Police bribery investigation remains active, details on the case are not currently being released. The SEC protects whistleblower confidentiality and does not disclose identifying information.
SEC Whistleblower Awards Surpass $100M
In a separate award announced today, the SEC paid its second largest whistleblower award of over $22 million to a whistleblower whose “detailed tip and extensive assistance helped the agency halt a well-hidden fraud at the company where the whistleblower worked.” The SEC awarded its largest whistleblower award of $30 million in 2014.
Since its 2011 inception, the SEC’s whistleblower program has paid whistleblower awards totaling over $100 million. To date, SEC actions arising from whistleblower tips have succeeded in recovering more than $500 million in financial remedies. SEC whistleblower awards can range from between 10% and 30% of any government recovery when sanctions exceed $1 million. Award payments come from a Congress-established investor protection fund financed through monetary sanctions recovered from securities law violators.
“The SEC’s whistleblower program has proven to be a game changer for the agency in it the program’s short time of existence, providing a source of valuable information to the SEC to further its mission of protecting investors while providing whistleblowers with protections and financial rewards,” said Mary Jo White, Chair of the SEC, in a press release.
SEC Whistleblower Office by the Numbers: Rewards $107 Million – Success says Norberg
Since the program’s inception, the SEC Whistleblower Office has received more than 14,000 whistleblower tips from individuals in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and 95 foreign countries.
Tips have increased 30% in just four years, from 3,001 in 2012 to nearly 4,000 last year. Over $107 million has been awarded to 33 whistleblowers, the largest being more than $30 million.
In today’s press release celebrating the program’s success, Acting Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower Jane Norberg stated, “This is a watershed moment for the SEC’s whistleblower program. The SEC has issued more than $100 million in whistleblower awards in five years, demonstrating the invaluable information and assistance whistleblowers have provided to the agency and underscoring the program’s resounding success.”