What is the general process?
First, an individual (who will later become the whistleblower) will witness the wrongdoing (often involving corruption or fraud against the U.S. government) that is committed by a company. In the context of the U.K., the company may be one of the following:
a) U.S. company, registered on a U.S. stock exchange;
b) Company from anywhere in the world that is a subsidiary, or is partially owned by a company
registered on a U.S. stock exchange; or
c) U.K. company engaged in misconduct that touches and concerns the U.S.
2. Second, that individual may make a report internally to the organisation where the fraud or wrongdoing
occurred or is occurring. If the individual considers that an internal report may be counter-productive
because those controlling the organisation are suspected to be involved in the wrongdoing. In such
circumstances the individual may consider it prudent to report the matter in the first instance, externally
to a U.S. government regulator or other law enforcement agency
3. Third, the individual, through his or her lawyer, reports the fraud or wrongdoing to one of the U.S.
government’s regulatory authorities and, if appropriate, may also file a sealed complaint in a U.S.
4. Fourth, the appropriate regulatory authority will undertake an investigation and determine whether to
pursue and prosecute the case against the organization. A timely report made to a responsible
external agency can facilitate a live, real time investigation as opposed to an historic forensic
examination of misconduct that has long since concluded, thereby having a greater likelihood of
achieving a successful outcome.
5. Fifth, if the individual’s information leads to a successful prosecution against the company and monetary
sanctions exceed the minimal amount set by the applicable law, then the whistleblower may be entitled to a
reward that is equivalent to at least 10% of the recovery obtained by the U.S. government.
Who are the U.S. regulatory authorities?
There are various U.S. Whistleblower Programmes. Here are the three main regulatory authorities of such programmes:
1. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”);
2. Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”);
3. Department of Justice (“DOJ”).
In addition thereto, many states within the U.S. (and, increasingly, many U.S. cities) operate their own whistleblower programmes.
What are the potential rewards for being a whistleblower?
There is a potential to receive a significant financial reward by exposing company misconduct, fraud or corrupt conduct against the U.S. government. For example:
Under the SEC Whistleblower Programme: The whistleblower award may range from 10% to 30% of monetary sanctions collected. To be eligible under the SEC programme, the action must result in monetary sanctions exceeding $1 million.
Under the IRS Whistleblower Programme: If the taxes, penalties, interest and other amounts exceed $2 million, the whistleblower reward may be 15% to 30% of the moneys collected. For those cases that do not meet the $2 million threshold or for those cases involving individual taxpayers with incomes of less than $200,000, the maximum whistleblower reward is 15% of the amount collected.
Under the DOJ Whistleblower Programme: Depending on whether the DOJ intervenes in the case, whistleblowers can receive a reward of 15% to 30% of the total recovery.
Surveys and research in the U.S. confirm that the overwhelming number of whistleblowers who make a report do so, principally, to expose the wrongful conduct and hold those responsible accountable, rather than to claim a reward.
About the Author:
Howard Brown has practiced as a solicitor in London for more than 30 years and practices primarily from offices in London. Howard specializes in representing British whistleblowers in the U.S.
Contact Howard confidentially on 020 3286 0392. You can also follow him on Google +