August 30, 2017 Articles

The Scope of Dodd-Frank’s Whistleblower Protections Is Hotly Disputed

Pending Supreme Court review, a Ninth Circuit ruling further complicates the terrain

by Rafael E. Rosario Jr.

Section 21F of the Dodd-Frank Act (DFA) directs the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to pay monetary awards to whistleblowers who provide "original information" leading to enforcement actions that result in sanctions exceeding $1 million. Thus far, the SEC's whistleblower program has been successful; indeed, as of 2016, the SEC's Office of the Whistleblower has issued more than $111 million in awards to 34 individuals. See SEC, 2016 Annual Report to Congress on the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program [hereinafter SEC Annual Report], at 10 (Nov. 15, 2016). The SEC received over 4,000 whistleblower tips in 2016 alone. See id. at 23. A circuit split among the Second, Fifth, and Ninth Circuits, however, threatens the whistleblower program's ongoing success and provides mixed signals to the financial institutions covered by the DFA.

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