The Securities and Exchange Commission voted to adopt rules to establish a whistleblower program that rewards individuals who provide the agency with high-quality tips that lead to successful enforcement actions.

The new SEC whistleblower program, implemented under Section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Act, is primarily intended to reward individuals who act early to expose violations and who provide significant evidence that helps the SEC bring successful cases. To be considered for an award, the SEC’s rules require that a whistleblower must voluntarily provide the SEC with original information that leads to the successful enforcement by the SEC of a federal court or administrative action in which the SEC obtains monetary sanctions totaling more than $1 million.

“For an agency with limited resources like the SEC, it is critical to be able to leverage the resources of people who may have first-hand information about violations of the securities laws,” said SEC chair Mary L. Schapiro in a statement Wednesday. “While the SEC has a history of receiving a high volume of tips and complaints, the quality of the tips we have received has been better since Dodd-Frank became law. We expect this trend to continue, and these final rules map out simplified and transparent procedures for whistleblowers to provide us critical information.”

The SEC’s rules will take effect 60 days after they are submitted to Congress or published in the Federal Register.

“In general, there’s a long history of retaliation against whistleblowers,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who helped enact provisions to encourage whistleblower programs at the SEC and the IRS.  “To come forward, they need protection and independence from the operation that’s potentially doing wrong. The SEC took a step in the right direction today. A whistleblower might prevent the next Madoff.”

Reuben Guttman, who chairs the whistleblower practice in Washington, D.C., for shareholder and corporate governance law firm Grant & Eisenhofer, commended the SEC vote. "Not requiring internal reporting before providing information to the SEC is a win for shareholders, consumers and taxpayers," he said. "In this regard, the SEC rule marks a conservative approach, given that a few short months ago we were on the verge of an economic meltdown attributable to pervasive wrongful conduct that was unchecked by failed internal compliance programs."

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