Can an Attorney Be a Whistleblower?
Generally speaking, an attorney is not eligible to receive a monetary award for becoming a whistleblower, particularly if the information is obtained through a professional communication that is protected under attorney-client privilege.
However, the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) has laid out specific circumstances in which an attorney may become a financially rewarded whistleblower.
Attorney-Client Privilege and Whistleblowing
Most states strongly frown upon attorneys acting as whistleblowers, raising the objection that this creates a conflict of interest between a client’s best interests and the personal interests of the attorney.
In a show of conflicting opinions, the SEC has supported the rule that an attorney may disclose information protected by confidentiality if the SEC lawyer conduct rules would permit it. In essence, the federal laws should supersede the lawyer-conduct rules of the states.
The circumstances where an attorney is able disclose confidential information to the SEC as a whistleblower include the following:
- Protecting an investor from violations that would result in serious financial injury
- Preventing the client from misrepresenting information under the penalty of perjury
- In resolution of serious financial injury to an investor that involved attorney services
This ability to report illegal activity conducted by their clients also sometimes allows the attorneys who engaged in the violation to escape penalties for their involvement in the misconduct.
It is important to note that while the SEC supports attorneys as whistleblowers when necessary, some states will open up a disciplinary investigation into an attorney’s conduct once he or she has become a whistleblower.
Get Help from an SEC Whistleblower Attorney
If you are an attorney with information regarding securities law violations performed by one of your clients, speak with an experienced SEC whistleblower attorney at Meissner Associates before you provide your tip to the SEC.
We are knowledgeable about securities laws across the nation and will be able to advise you regarding the significance of the violation you are aware of—as well as if it is worth the risk of becoming a whistleblower. Schedule your free, confidential tip evaluation by giving us a call at 1-866-764-3100 or by filling out our contact form below.