05/20/2015 // Keller Grover LLP // (press release)
San Francisco, CA – Whistleblowers have become an effective weapon in the fight against fraud, so not surprisingly, they have been embraced – and supported — by a growing array of new laws and programs. One of the most prominent recent initiatives is the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of the Whistleblower. This program offers individuals an easy way to do the right thing and sound the alarm on financial wrongdoing. But it is a program that is unique in key aspects – and potential whistleblowers need to know how it differs from other types of whistleblower initiatives.
In a new Google Hangout from the law firm Keller Grover, federal whistleblower lawyer Kate Scanlan explains what makes the SEC whistleblower program different – and how individuals who know of something amiss in the financial securities sector can make the best use of it.
“The big difference between the SEC’s whistleblower program and key whistleblower statutes like the federal False Claims Act is that in the SEC’s initiative, you don’t actually file a lawsuit,” says Scanlan. “Instead, you are simply providing a tip to the SEC. You know of, or have reason to suspect, fraud or other wrongdoing, and you provide that information to the SEC.”
While the process is simple – whistleblowers can fill out a form on the SEC’s website – there are some features that potential whistleblowers need to know about before they hit ‘send.’
For one thing, Scanlan says, while individuals can provide tips entirely on their own, legal representation can bring important advantages. “The SEC’s whistleblower program allows you to provide a tip anonymously – and also collect a reward, anonymously, if the SEC ultimately obtains a sanction of over $1 million,” says Scanlan. “But you can only use this provision if you are represented by a lawyer, who will attest that what you are saying is credible.”
Anonymity, Scanlan adds, is a unique benefit the SEC program provides, and it can be crucial, since insiders who blow the whistle on the companies they work for could also face potential retaliation – such as demotions or even loss of employment.
Scanlan also notes that a whistleblower may often have related legal claims and working with an experienced whistleblower lawyer can help strategize and prioritize the different issues and procedures. “You want to work with someone who can really help you step through the entire process,” she says.
Potential whistleblowers should note, too, that the investigation process within the SEC could take a while – typically a few years. So patience is crucial. “This is a multi-phased process,” says Scanlan, whose firm has offices in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. “You may get a call asking you to provide more information, or you may hear nothing for a long while. Generally, you’re looking at several years between the tip and the resolution. But in that time, the wheels are turning, and in the end, that single tip you provide can take a big bite out of fraud.”
For more information on the whistleblower process,
Url: Keller Grover LLP