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Whistleblowers Handsomely Rewarded in 2014

Judy Greenwald for Business Insurance reports that SEC whistleblower tips are up 10 percent this year, along with a record number of awards. One of those awards includes the famous (or infamous, from the defense perspective) award of $30 million to one whistleblower in a case where the SEC successfully went after the violator.

According to this SEC press release, the whistleblower in that case “came [to the SEC] with information about an ongoing fraud that would have been very difficult to detect. This record-breaking award sends a strong message about our commitment to whistleblowers and the value they bring to law enforcement.”

In this context, we’re talking about whistle-blowing about violations of securities law, which is just one area of the law involving whistleblowers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also administers a whistleblower protection program, which seeks to protect employees who report safety violations and who risk retaliation from their employers, including wrongful termination, demotion, a reduction in pay, and other potential consequences.

In California – which happens to be among the handful of states with the highest rates of whistleblowing that involves securities law violations, according to Greenwald – as in other states, employers can hire and fire at will, but they cannot retaliate against an employee who reports fraud or safety violations.