As part of our #GivingTuesday campaign this year, the National Whistleblower Center is highlighting the stories of several whistleblowers who spoke at the 2019 National Whistleblower Day celebration.

Eugene “Gene” Ross is a former Bear Stearns employee who uncovered the Amerindo Investment Advisor fraud in September 2004.

The principals of Amerindo – Alberto Vilar and Gary Tanaka – misappropriated at least $5 million from a client and made false and misleading statements. In November 2008, they were convicted for defrauding investors.

Gene was a witness for the Department of Justice and testified at the trial; an internal memo he wrote documenting the fraud was also used as evidence.

Because Gene blew the whistle, Vilar and Tanaka went to prison. The Amerindo victims got most of their money back. Without him, none of this would have happened.

But his honesty came at a price – Gene was heavily retaliated against by Bear Stearns. He was chastised, fired, and sued. In 2010, he was forced to declare personal bankruptcy.


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The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said Friday he does not want to put a “cap” on awards to SEC whistleblowers.

SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said a provision that would give the SEC discretion over awards of more than $30 million has been “mischaracterized” as a “cap.” He made the comments in a letter accompanying the whistleblower office’s annual report to Congress.

The proposed provision was not a “cap,” it could not and was not intended to operate as a “cap,” and I do not support a cap.  Congress vested in the Commission the authority and responsibility to use our good judgment and experience to determine award amounts within the range of 10-30% prescribed by Congress, and we should do just that.

The mischaracterization did have a salutary effect.  The whistleblower bar, members of Congress and other commentators brought to my attention the fact that the mischaracterization raised uncertainty about the agency’s commitment to the program.  They explained that uncertainty, including even uncertainty regarding the award process for very large awards, could deter potential whistleblowers from coming forward.  This reality of human emotion and decision-making under uncertainty is not lost on me. 

 While all cases are different and award processes that incorporate the exercise of discretion have an inherent level of imprecision, it is my aim that, as we gain greater experience with the whistleblower program, the award process will be more transparent.

The National Whistleblower Center has opposed proposed changes, which staff say would damage the program by adding additional reporting requirements and allowing the SEC to cap some awards. The NWC has met with Clayton and has filed numerous comments on the rule. An SEC meeting to consider the rules was cancelled in October; Clayton said the panel will “consider final rules in the near future.”
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Whistleblowers would be protected and rewarded for exposing accounting misdeeds under a bill scheduled for a vote in the House this week. The bill would attach a whistleblower protection provision to rules governing the the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) – often referred to as “Peekaboo.”

The PCAOB, according to the panels’website, “oversees the audits of public companies and SEC-registered brokers and dealers in order to protect investors and further the public interest in the preparation of informative, accurate, and independent audit reports.”

But, according to a recent investigation by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), it’s doing a terrible job. Could better protections for whistleblowers get the effort back on track? One of the recommendations in the POGO report notes that “whistleblowers could help make enforcement of the audit firm industry easier and more effective.”


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The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) financial whistleblower program has been busy, most lately announcing a $2 million award to “two model whistleblowers who provided the agency with significant information that prompted the CFTC to open an investigation….The multiple interviews and numerous documents the whistleblowers provided were highly informative and formed the basis of the CFTC’s investigation.”

its largest whistleblower awardIn June, the agency announced a $2.5 million award, which followed a $1.5 million reward announced in May. The agency reports awarding more than $87 million to whistleblowers between 2014 and 2018.

The agency is committed to the program, according to a quote from director James McDonald in a press release announcing the May award.

Today’s award stands as one in a growing line of whistleblower awards that show the Commission’s continued commitment to the program. Whistleblowers have become an integral part of our enforcement efforts, and I expect that trend to continue going forward.
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Stephen-M-Kohn-Global-Whistleblower-AttorneyNovember 12, 2018. Washington, D.C. The leading whistleblower and qui tam attorney in the United States, Stephen M. Kohn is referred to as the “Dirty Harry” of Financial Fraud by the Danish press.  Kohn represents Danske Bank whistleblower Howard Wilkinson, who uncovered what some are calling the largest money-laundering scandal in world banking history. 
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