In a recent post we discussed the “transformative effect” the SEC’s Whistleblower Program has had on SEC enforcement and reviewed the news that the SEC has now paid out more than $100 million to whistleblowers. We also, in an earlier post, walked-through both the Dodd-Frank and the SOX whistleblower programs and discussed some of their differences and similarities.
The most important thread running through all of this is the importance of whistleblowers in the detection and prevention of financial reporting fraud. The SEC’s Whistleblower Program affords “gatekeepers” a robust process for speaking out when they see something that isn’t right. The program is important in the detection of financial reporting fraud and is becoming an ever more important aspect of the SEC’s Enforcement program.
An important part of this program is sending messages to companies that they cannot act to harm whistleblowers. On two occasions thus far the SEC has acted strongly to punish companies who have sought to impede or retaliate against whistleblowers. The most recent case, in the words of the SEC, involved “firing an employee with several years of positive performance reviews because he reported to senior management and the SEC that the company’s financial statements might be distorted.”
The company paid a fine of half a million dollars.
Whistleblower situations are never simple. The issues involved are always grey. Whistleblowers can sometimes challenge areas where management has tried to make good decisions in complex situations. Loyalty is always an issue when someone blows the whistle. But even with these challenges the message from the SEC is clear; don’t retaliate when someone blows the whistle. Instead take steps to appropriately investigate and resolve the issues!
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.