Factors That Can Increase Your SEC Whistleblower Award

When an individual discovers information about a possible securities fraud or investment scheme, it can put them in a tough situation. Do you risk it all and report your tip to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)? Do you keep quiet and become complicit in the schemes?

Making the decision to blow the whistle isn’t an easy one, but the SEC recognizes this and therefore offers whistleblower awards to those who help put a stop to investment fraud and securities violations.

Before you can win a whistleblower reward, however, you need to meet certain requirements, and just because you tip off the SEC doesn’t mean you’re entitled to such an award. Continue reading to learn more about the whistleblower award requirements and how you can potentially increase the amount of your award.

What You Need to Do to Qualify for a Whistleblower Award

It isn’t enough to simply report a tip to the SEC to win an award. There are strict criteria that you’ll need to meet in order to qualify. First, you need to be the first whistleblower to come forward with that specific piece of information. The information you have must have been obtained through a non-public source, such as internal documents or perhaps through rumors at work.

For this reason, as soon as you become aware of a possible securities violation, you should reach out to your SEC whistleblower lawyer to report your tip. Otherwise, a colleague might have the opportunity to report before you, which will result in your disqualification for a whistleblower reward.

Additionally, the information you present to the SEC must enable them to take enforceable action against the alleged fraudster or corporation. Then, the SEC needs to be able to recover sanctions of at least $1 million. As long as each of these requirements are met, you should be entitled to a whistleblower award.

Providing Valuable Information

You might be wondering how much you should expect to be awarded once you meet the eligibility requirements. There are many factors that come into play when figuring out how much you’re entitled to, but it will nearly always fall between 10 percent and 30 percent of the amount of sanctions recovered by the SEC.

If you are hoping to increase the amount of your whistleblower award, the best thing that you can do is to make sure to provide as much detailed information as possible when reporting your tip.

If you are able to safely obtain confidential documents, financial statements, or other evidence that proves a securities violation, the SEC will consider your tip to be incredibly valuable and instrumental in their ability to put a stop to the fraud at hand. The more valuable your tip is, the greater your award will be.

Consult an SEC Whistleblower Lawyer

When you discover evidence that suggests an investment scheme or other securities violation is taking place, you can tip off the SEC and possibly earn a reward for blowing the whistle.

Work with an experienced SEC whistleblower lawyer at Meissner Associates to protect your identity and maximize the amount of your award. You can schedule your confidential tip evaluation by giving our office a call at 1-866-764-3100 or filling out the secure contact form at the bottom of this page.

Did Marriott Violate SEC Cybersecurity Disclosure Standards?

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is responsible for overseeing the rules and regulations regarding the financial markets and securities world. When a corporation is found to have engaged in fraudulent activities, the SEC can open an investigation and take action against the violating company.

Recently, Marriott International, a hotel corporation with offices located around the world, announced a data breach in their reservation system that could have exposed the personal information of approximately 500 million individuals over the past four years.

Below, we discuss the Marriott hacking scandal in further details, and we explore whether Marriott was in violation of the SEC’s cybersecurity disclosure standards.

The Marriott Hacking Scandal

In 2016, Marriott International acquired Starwood as one of its subsidiary hotels. Then, in September 2018, one of Marriott’s internal security tools discovered a possible breach in the U.S. guest database.

Once Marriott discovered that guest information may have been compromised, they opened an investigation to determine the details of the breach and what information had been stolen.

Their investigation uncovered that a hacker copied guest information from the database and encrypted it. From there, Marriott worked diligently to decrypt the information and find out which guest information had been stolen.

The question of whether Marriott violated the SEC’s cybersecurity disclosure standards comes into play when the company failed to mention the data breach when it filed its recent quarterly report to the SEC—only described certain cyber risk factors that Marriott might be facing.

SEC Cybersecurity Risks and Disclosure

Currently, there is no specific law that requires corporations to disclose these types of hacking incidents. As such, Marriott did not violate the cybersecurity disclosure standards as they are currently written. However, that doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t be obligated to disclose these hacks and cybersecurity risks.

Failure to report and inform these breaches in data puts guests and investors at risk, particularly if the corporation provides false or misleading information to investors and the public.

Marriott can be further scrutinized due to the fact that the data breach in question was found to have been ongoing within Starwood since 2014, but was not discovered until two years after Marriott acquired its subsidiary.

The SEC is likely to make their standards for cybersecurity disclosures more clear, as the vague nature of the guidelines opens the door for other corporations who have been hacked or face cybersecurity breaches to not disclose these breaches to their investors and impacted consumers.

Get Help from a SEC Whistleblower Lawyer

As can be seen, the cybersecurity disclosure standards of the SEC are a cause for concern, and if you believe that you have information regarding a possible violation of these standards, you can work with an SEC whistleblower lawyer at Meissner Associates to report your tip and possibly win a reward for your efforts.

You can schedule your confidential tip assessment today by giving our office a call at 1-866-764-3100 or by completing the secure contact form we have provided at the bottom of this page.

Do you have to be a US Resident to be an SEC Whistleblower?

Do you have to be a US Resident to be an SEC Whistleblower?

If you are not a current U.S. resident, but you have information regarding violations of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), then you might be wondering whether you can blow the whistle on securities fraud. Fortunately, you do not need to reside in the U.S. to become an SEC whistleblower.

Whistleblowing is critical to the success of the country’s economy and financial markets, and without whistleblowers, these markets would run amok with investment schemes and other securities violations. For this reason, it doesn’t matter where you live in the world; if you become aware of possible violations, you have the right to come forward and have your tip heard by the SEC.

Doing so can result in significant whistleblower awards if specific criteria are met, and having an experienced SEC whistleblower attorney by your side can increase your chances of coming away with the reward you deserve.

Continue reading to learn more about why those who live outside of the U.S. can still secure whistleblower awards, and the requirements your tip will need to meet in order to be eligible for such a reward.

Why International Whistleblowers Can Win Awards

U.S.-based companies often conduct business outside of the country, and have locations across the globe. Because these corporations are U.S.-based, they must adhere to U.S. rules and regulations regarding financial markets, trading and investing, no matter where their subsequent offices are located.

For example, if a U.S.-based corporation also has offices in Hong Kong or Paris, any employee in those locations can report tips to the SEC and potentially win an award for the risk they took in coming forward.

Employees who are concerned about being retaliated against by their employer for whistleblowing can remain anonymous when reporting to the SEC if they work with a qualified SEC whistleblower attorney. Your identity will only need to become known by the SEC in the event that you qualify for a whistleblower award.

Requirements for Obtaining a Whistleblower Reward

Before you blow the whistle, you likely want to determine whether you’ll qualify for such a reward. For you to be eligible for a whistleblower award, you’ll need to meet stringent requirements, including the following:

Your lawyer can answer any concerns you might have about your eligibility after reviewing the circumstances of the scheme in question and the validity of your information.

Consult an Experienced SEC Whistleblower Lawyer

If you are an international whistleblower who is interested in tipping off the SEC, you can retain the legal representation you need when you reach out to a qualified SEC whistleblower lawyer at Meissner Associates. Simply complete the secured contact form provided below or call our firm directly at 1-866-764-3100 to schedule your confidential tip assessment today.

Are There Limits on SEC Whistleblower Payouts?

Are There Limits on SEC Whistleblower Payouts?

After you’ve reported your tip regarding securities violations to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), you’re probably wondering whether you’ll qualify for an award and how much you stand to collect.

Those who choose to blow the whistle on fraudulent activity are sometimes awarded for their courage via monetary compensation. Continue reading to learn more about how you can obtain a whistleblower award and how much you’re eligible to receive.

How to Win a Whistleblower Award

In order to qualify for a whistleblower award, there are very strict requirements you’ll need to meet. To begin, you will need to provide your information voluntarily. This means that if the SEC has already begun an investigation into the securities fraud in question, you’ll need to come forward before the SEC asks to interview you.

The information you provide will also need to be original. Original means that you’ve obtained your information from a source that hasn’t been made public. If you read about something on the news, that wouldn’t be considered original. But, if your tip was gathered from internal documents or through gossip at work, you need to come forward before someone else does.

Even if you meet each of these criteria, you can’t win an award unless the SEC is able to take enforceable action against those accused of committing fraud. For this to happen, your tip needs to be valuable to the success of the SEC’s investigation.

Finally, if you want to win a whistleblower award, the SEC will need to recover sanctions of at least $1 million. Of this, depending on how valuable your tip was, you could be entitled to anywhere between 10 and 30 percent of the recovered amount.

Payouts When You Meet Award Criteria

As of this article’s publication, there is no limit to how much you’ll be able to obtain as an award for whistleblowing. If the SEC recovers $100 million, for example, you could be awarded as much as $30 million for your bravery in coming forward.

However, the SEC has recently proposed an amendment to their current policies, which would allow them to limit the award amount at their discretion. Opponents to this proposition argue that doing so will weaken the whistleblower program, as a whole, while proponents argue that such large awards are not reasonable or necessary.

A decision has yet to be made, but whistleblowers put themselves at risk when they come forward, and some spend many years of their lives waiting for their efforts to come to fruition. As such, they should be awarded accordingly for the risks they’ve taken.

Reach Out to an SEC Whistleblower Lawyer

If you have further questions about your potential whistleblower award, or if you need assistance reporting your tip to the SEC, reach out to a highly trained SEC whistleblower lawyer at Meissner Associates. Give our office a call at 1-866-764-3100 or complete the secured contact form below to schedule your confidential tip review as soon as possible.

Why Should SEC Whistleblowers Remain Anonymous?

Why Should SEC Whistleblowers Remain Anonymous?

If you are considering becoming a whistleblower, there are several things you should know to prepare yourself to report on securities violations. Blowing the whistle is the right thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it can’t come with serious risks.

One of the biggest risks whistleblowers take is retaliation by their employer, who suspects them of reporting information to the SEC. For this reason, the SEC allows would-be whistleblowers to remain anonymous when providing tips that could have devastating consequences to their lives.

Below, we discuss the types of retaliation that are frequently seen by whistleblowers across the country, plus how you can go about protecting your identity.

Whistleblowers and Retaliation

One of the reasons many would-be whistleblowers refrain from coming forward with the information they have is because they are afraid of retaliation. Most often this is because they are employed by the company accused of engaging in securities violations.

You might be wondering whether you have been the target of retaliation, or what constitutes retaliatory action. By law, retaliation is defined as any action taken that has negatively impacted your life after you’ve blown the whistle.

This might include slander, an increasingly hostile work environment, harassment, demotion, termination, intimidation or any other action taken against you when you try to put a stop to fraudulent activities.

For example, let’s say you attempted to bring your concerns to your company’s internal compliance program and were subsequently terminated. Anonymity could have prevented this retaliation. Furthermore, you might have the opportunity to hold your employer accountable their retaliatory acts.

How to Protect Your Identity

The SEC recognizes that the risk of retaliation is great, particularly in situations where employees of corporations have already made an attempt to report their findings to the company’s internal compliance program.

Because of this, the SEC has taken steps to protect these whistleblowers by allowing them to tip off the SEC anonymously when they are represented by an attorney.

The SEC won’t become aware of your identity unless or until it is time to issue you an award, at which point, of course, your identity becomes necessary to receive the award. It’s worth noting that the SEC won’t disclose your identity to anyone unless it becomes necessary, by law, to do so.

In addition, should your employer suspect that you’ve blown the whistle and retaliates against you for doing so, you can bring a claim against them, per the Whistleblower Protection Act.

You might also bring a wrongful termination claim against your employer, which will allow you to recover compensation for any losses you endured as a result of losing your job. Finally, the SEC will impose sanctions against a company who retaliates against a whistleblowing employee.

Schedule Your Confidential Tip Evaluation

When you’re ready to blow the whistle on securities fraud, but you want to make sure that your identity is protected, work with a qualified SEC whistleblower lawyer at Meissner Associates. We’ll work to protect your right to anonymity when tipping off the SEC.

We offer all prospective whistleblowers a confidential tip evaluation to determine what your next steps should be. Schedule yours today by calling 1-866-764-3100 or by submitting the secure contact form we’ve provided at the bottom of this page.

Is Whistleblowing a Social Responsibility?

Is Whistleblowing a Social Responsibility?

Corporations and other publicly traded companies often include social responsibilities, or a way of giving back to society after earning a profit. Oftentimes, investors will choose which businesses they invest with based on what their social responsibilities are. In this way, whistleblowing does become a social responsibility.

Whistleblowers are critical to ensuring that corporations follow federal securities laws and uphold the standards they’ve portrayed to their investors. When a corporate insider reveals fraudulent activity, it can have a direct impact on social responsible investing and help investors or companies ensure that their business ventures remain dedicated to the civic duties they’ve committed to.

Social Responsibility in Publicly Traded Companies

An excellent way of understanding social responsibility in publicly traded corporations is to examine a large company such as General Electric. GE’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) page includes initiatives they are capitalizing on and who these social responsibilities will benefit, including stakeholders, investors, employees, customers, and the environment.

Some of these initiatives include the GE Ecomagination strategy, which is meant to reduce the company’s environmental impact and help it to become more sustainable, and the GE Foundation, which works with HR management programs that provide education regarding human rights, health, and employment principles in a number of different sustainability industries.

For investors who choose their investment opportunities with corporate social responsibilities in mind, businesses that strongly outline their initiatives, while also upholding these beliefs and strategies, are more likely to be successful.

What Happens When Corporations Fail to Uphold Their Obligations?

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has developed a whistleblower program through which would-be whistleblowers can report fraudulent activity to the SEC and potentially win an award if their tip meets the eligibility requirements.

When whistleblowers report that a corporation hasn’t been upholding their CSR obligations, typically by deceiving investors who chose to invest based on the company’s social responsibilities, the investor’s funds can be protected and the corporation will be expected to maintain the validity of their social responsibilities.

If a corporation is found to have failed to maintain their social responsibility commitments, the risks are high. The company’s stock value could fall, they could lose potential new investors, investor confidence could plummet, and the corporation could lose all consumer trust.

How Whistleblowers Impact Social Responsibility

Whistleblowers coming forward with information regarding these violations are one of the most important tools to discovering this form of fraudulent activity.

Corporate insiders should be expected to follow the obligations of their company’s social responsibilities. This includes holding their company accountable for their CSRs, which is why whistleblowing itself is considered to be a social responsibility.

Failing to follow a corporation’s social obligations can impact investors and the public, result in hefty penalties for those found responsible for the violations, and yield substantial whistleblower awards through the SEC whistleblower program.

Many would-be whistleblowers refrain from reporting tips even though they are aware of the violations due to the very real fear of retaliation. Fortunately, there are many whistleblower protections available that can allow you to report your tips with confidence.

Speak with an SEC Whistleblower Lawyer

Whistleblowers and exposing social responsibility commitments that aren’t being upheld are of significant importance. Potential whistleblowers should consider this information a social responsibility in and of itself.

If you are interested in reporting your tips to the SEC, get in touch with a skilled SEC whistleblower lawyer at Meissner Associates today. Doing so could result in a substantial whistleblower award. You can schedule your confidential tip evaluation by filling out the secure contact form below or by giving our office a call at 1-866-764-3100.

Non-GAAP Accounting and the SEC

Non-GAAP Accounting and the SEC

The United States uses a system known as “generally accepted accounting principles,” or GAAP, as the standard for financial reporting of businesses across the country. GAAP includes reporting standards and principles when compiling important financial statements.

Non-GAAP accounting becomes an issue with the SEC when companies begin fraudulently manipulating financial documents they present to their potential investors. The requirements of GAAP are rigid, and critics have pointed out that in many cases, GAAP financial reports don’t accurately reflect a company’s performance.

Companies are resorting to using non-GAAP—also known as pro forma—numbers to adjust their financial statements to demonstrate their financial position.

Why Non-GAAP Numbers Are an Issue

The problem with companies using non-GAAP numbers is that they often paint a picture of a company doing better financially than it actually is. This misleads investors into thinking that their investment is in a “safer” position than it might actually be.

Because publicly traded companies’ use of non-GAAP numbers has been on the rise, more investors are being deceived about the successes or failures of the companies they are investing in or considering investing in.

Although non-GAAP numbers can be useful in describing large, one-time expenses so that the investor has a more realistic idea of the company’s financial earnings, some companies are adjusting their earnings to unrealistic levels.

Red flags that demonstrate a business is using non-GAAP numbers could be the omission of stock-based compensation and restructuring costs in their financial statements, as well as a focus on adjusted per-share earnings.

As the SEC opens more and more investigations into businesses that use non-GAAP accounting practices, the number of SEC whistleblower awards related to this conduct is likely to soar.

Reporting to the SEC Can Get You a Whistleblower Reward

Many would-be whistleblowers are leery about moving forward with blowing the whistle on fraudulent non-GAAP accounting due to the fear of retaliation.

Businesses often do retaliate against suspected whistleblowers by terminating, harassing, or demoting them or ruining their professional reputation—even though both the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Dodd-Frank Act contain provisions that explicitly prohibit retaliatory action by employers.

If your employers choose to violate these provisions, we can bring them to court. You could be entitled to reinstatement into your former position, back-pay, and the recovery of other losses you endured.

When you provide a tip to the SEC, you have the potential to win a substantial whistleblower reward. If your tip is original, valuable, and given voluntarily, you’ll have met the initial criteria for a reward.

In addition, the SEC must be able to take enforceable action against the violating company in question, as well as recover a minimum of $1,000,000 in sanctions for you to qualify. Of the recovered sanctions, you will be entitled to between 10 and 30 percent, depending on how valuable your tip was to the success of the SEC’s investigation.

Contact an SEC Whistleblower Lawyer

If you are considering blowing the whistle on a potential securities violation like non-GAAP accounting and are interested in remaining anonymous or need protection from retaliation, get in touch with a qualified SEC whistleblower lawyer at Meissner Associates as soon as possible.

You can schedule your no-obligation tip evaluation today by completing the secure contact form below or by calling our office at 1-866-764-3100.

What Is the SEC’s Cyber Unit?

What Is the SEC's Cyber Unit?

As cyber-based threats to retail investors become more common, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)is working to fight back against these threats. As part of that effort, the commission recently developed a Cyber Unit.

Digital misconduct can affect retail investors in many serious ways, and the SEC is now prepared to investigate cyber threats and begin detecting them before fraudsters are able to run away with investor funds. Read on to learn more about the SEC’s Cyber Unit.

The Purpose of the Cyber Unit

Those using the Internet to commit fraud are able to hide behind the screen despite being involved in large-scale fraudulent operations.

Securities violations like selling unregistered securities, insider trading, stock manipulation, hacking into retail accounts, and coin pump-and-dump schemes are going to be the primary areas of concern for the SEC’s new investigative unit.

Eliminating ICO and DLT Misconduct

An ICO, or initial coin offering, is an unregulated way to raise funds for cryptocurrencies. Selling virtual currency to investors—such as the successful Filecoin—is very similar to crowdfunding. Programmers don’t have to sell their own stock and are able to avoid regulated sources of capital.

Coins are supposed to have an independent value outside of the virtual world, and there is usually a cap on how many coins will exist, which is why they are so appealing to many new investors.

The difference between cryptocurrencies and stocks is that investors who get in on an ICO do not have any ownership in the company. Stocks, on the other hand, do provide that sense of security. When ICOs do provide ownership, the SEC may require the company to adhere to all securities laws.

Distributed ledger technology (DLT) uses nodes (independent computers) to share, record, and sync transactions electronically, as opposed to a traditional ledger. Because the data here is decentralized, fraudsters are able to capitalize on weaknesses in the various places the data is stored. The SEC Cyber Unit will investigate such misconduct.

How the Cyber Unit Will Fight Back Against Securities Violations

The SEC Cyber Unit will also work to identify large schemes and detect fraudulent activity across the country through data analytics and, of course, technology. It will also focus on developing techniques that address and prevent cyber threats from affecting retail investors.

In addition, the SEC’s newly created Distributed Ledger Technology Working Group will study emerging uses of distributed ledgers within the financial industry in the hope of identifying potential misconduct before fraudsters have the opportunity to take advantage of investors.

Call an SEC Whistleblower Lawyer

If you have information about potential securities violations perpetrated online and are considering blowing the whistle on such misconduct, get in touch with a qualified SEC whistleblower lawyer at Meissner Associates today.

You can schedule your confidential tip evaluation by giving our office a call at 1-866-764-3100 or filling out the secure contact form we’ve provided below.

What Are the SEC’s Anonymity Rules for Whistleblowers?

What Are the SEC's Anonymity Rules for Whistleblowers?

Reporting tips regarding securities violations is critical to stopping fraudulent activity within financial markets and securities industries. Unfortunately, it can be risky for would-be whistleblowers to provide the information they have to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Fortunately, there are protections in place for SEC whistleblowers. If you are interested in becoming a whistleblower, you’ll have the option of remaining anonymous as you provide your tip to the SEC.

Why Remain Anonymous?

The most critical reason that potential whistleblowers want to protect their identities is the fear of retaliation by employers. Although the Dodd-Frank and the Sarbanes-Oxley acts both expressly prohibit employers from retaliating against suspected whistleblowers, that doesn’t mean they always obey.

The fears of harassment, demotion, termination, suspension, and even slander are all very real for would-be whistleblowers. Having the protection of remaining anonymous can help you stay confident that those involved in the fraudulent activity won’t learn your identity and make your life difficult.

Report Your Tip Through an Attorney

There are specific requirements—outlined by the SEC and Dodd-Frank—that whistleblowers will need to follow if they hope to remain anonymous. The first of those requirements holds that you must report your tip through an attorney.

You will discuss the information you have with your lawyer first and be informed about what you can expect after you report your tip, as well as be advised as to whether we anticipate that the SEC will be able to successfully investigate and enforce action against the fraudsters. If the SEC achieves this success, you may be eligible for a financial reward.

Then, we will report your tip to the SEC on the condition of anonymity. We will arrange for interviews to be conducted via telephone. If you are going to receive a reward, however, this will change.

Disclosure Upon Disbursement of Your Award

The SEC requires disclosure of the identities of those who receive whistleblower rewards. Although your identity will not be made public, the SEC will need to know who you are in order to issue you the award you deserve.

This won’t occur unless or until the commission is ready to provide your award, however, so you’ll continue to remain completely anonymous throughout the reporting and investigative process.

Consult an SEC Whistleblower Lawyer

When you have information about a possible securities violation within your company and are considering blowing the whistle, contact a qualified SEC whistleblower lawyer at Meissner Associates.  

Our firm can help you report your tip and remain anonymous so you are protected from retaliation and able to maximize your chance of receiving a whistleblower award. Simply fill out the secure contact form below or call our office at 1-866-764-3100 to take advantage of your confidential tip assessment today.