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SEC Enforcement Actions

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the United States agency with primary responsibility for enforcing federal securities laws. Whistleblowers with knowledge of violations of the federal securities laws can submit a claim to the SEC under the SEC Whistleblower Reward Program, and may be eligible to receive  monetary rewards and protection against retaliation by employers.

Below are summaries of recent SEC settlements or successful prosecutions. If you believe you have information about fraud which could give  rise to an SEC enforcement action and claim under the SEC Whistleblower Reward Program, please contact us to speak with one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys.

May 12, 2021

Registered broker-dealer GWFS Equities Inc. will pay a penalty of $1.5 million to settle allegations that it failed to respond appropriately when it detected external bad actors gaining, or attempting to gain, access to the retirement accounts of participants in the employer-sponsored retirement plans it serviced, including through the use of improperly obtained electronic login information, user names, email addresses, and passwords. There was no allegation that this personal identifying information was disclosed in a breach of GWFS systems. However, the bad actors used this information to request distributions from plan participant accounts. While GWFS detected and blocked many of these attempts, the SEC charged that GWFS failed to file suspicious activity reports, or filed incomplete SARs, with respect to the account takeovers. SEC

May 12, 2021

The SEC made a whistleblower award of $3.6 million to an individual who provided new information that resulted in the opening of an SEC investigation directly based on that information, and provided ongoing assistance to the Commission during the course of the investigation.  At the same time, the SEC denied a whistleblower award to a second individual who submitted information regarding the company in the same covered action, finding that the information provided by the second claimant did not significantly contribute to the success of the Covered Action.  SEC

May 10, 2021

Two whistleblowers received a total of $22 million in awards from the SEC with respect to settled administrative proceedings against unidentified parties including a financial services firm.  The first whistleblower, whose tip initiated the SEC's investigation, was awarded $18 million.  The second whistleblower, whose tip was submitted several years later, was awarded $4 million.  Both whistleblowers challenged the SEC's preliminary determination of award, and the SEC's final order concludes that the first whistleblower, who suffered hardships while attempting to remedy the situation, was the main source of information for the Commission and provided extensive and ongoing assistance during the investigation.  While the second whistleblower provided important additional information as a percipient witness, the Commission also noted that the second whistleblower delayed reporting for several years after becoming aware of the wrongdoing.  SEC

April 23, 2021

The SEC has granted awards totaling more than $3 million to two whistleblowers whose information led to two separate enforcement actions.  The first whistleblower was awarded approximately $3.2 million for helping to conserve agency resources by identifying key issues to focus on and providing subject matter expertise.  The second whistleblower was awarded more than $100,000 for significant information and ongoing assistance that helped stop an ongoing fraud.  SEC

April 19, 2021

Unregistered investment adviser Hai Khoa Dang has been ordered to pay a $2.2 million penalty and about $7,000 in disgorgement and interest for defrauding a retired couple who had been his clients for 20 years.  Dang allegedly informed the couple that he would invest their funds conservatively; unbeknownst to his clients, he then engaged in a risky options trading strategy that ultimately caused their funds to plummet from over $2.2 million to $27,000.  SEC

April 15, 2021

The SEC has awarded two whistleblowers a joint award of over $50 million for providing information, voluminous documents, and substantial assistance that led to the return of tens of millions of dollars to harmed investors.  According to the SEC, the fraud scheme at issue involved highly complex transactions that would have been difficult for the agency to detect.  SEC

March 29, 2021

The SEC has awarded an anonymous whistleblower $500,000 based on recoveries in a covered action and a related action that resulted in the shut-down of an ongoing fraudulent scheme. The whistleblower first reported the alleged misconduct to their employer, using the employer’s internal compliance procedures.  Then, within 120 days of reporting the violations internally, the whistleblower submitted a TCR to the SEC.  According to the SEC, the whistleblower provided significant information that prompted it to open an investigation, and provided ongoing assistance to Commission staff.  Separately, the employer began an internal investigation and ultimately made a report to a government agency.  Because the whistleblower reported internally and to the SEC within 120 days of their internal report, the SEC applied its “safe harbor” rule and treated the whistleblower’s SEC submission as if it had been made on the day that the whistleblower reported internally.  SEC

March 9, 2021

The SEC will pay $1.5 million to an unidentified whistleblower who provided original information to the Commission regarding the whistleblower’s employer, causing them to open an investigation.  The whistleblower provided detailed written information, identified potential witnesses, and assisted throughout the investigation.  SEC
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