On December 5, 2017 the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) awarded more than $4.1 million to a whistleblower for alerting the SEC to a multi-year securities fraud engaged in by his employer. The award is significant in that the recipient, a company insider who alerted the SEC to the securities fraud, is a non-U.S. national working overseas. This is not the first time that the SEC has awarded a large sum to a foreign whistleblower. The distinction for the largest award ever awarded goes to an award of $30 million awarded in 2014 to a whistleblower living in a foreign country. In that case the whistleblower provided the SEC with information about an on-going fraud that the SEC claimed was hard to detect.
This is a noteworthy trend and highlights another way that corrupt practices can come to light and lead to enforcement for U.S. and multinational companies exposed to U.S. jurisdiction. Between fiscal years 2011 and 2017, the SEC received tips from individuals in 114 foreign countries and in FY 2017 alone the SEC received tips from 72 countries. Since the whistleblower program began, the top five countries from where the SEC has received tips are the United Kingdom (438), Canada (357), China (238), Australia (198), and India (187). Of a total of 4,484 tips received in 2017, almost 5 percent related to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”).