First FCPA Whistleblower Award Revealed

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An Australian newspaper over the weekend reported the payment of a reward by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to an SEC whistleblower concerning information about violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by Australian mining conglomerate BHP Billiton. It is the first public report of a payment to an FCPA whistleblower by the United States since the adoption of the Dodd-Frank Act.

A few years after Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act authorizing financial incentives for information about violations of the federal securities laws, a SEC enforcement official called the bribery law “fertile ground” for whistleblowing. This likely stems from the government’s focus on protecting international business from corruption, the difficulties in proof of bribery without eyewitnesses, and the large possible fines in these types of cases.

There have been several media reports of whistleblowers in FCPA cases but this is the first report of an award paid by the government. The SEC doesn’t typically hand out information about the case or the individual that led to an award. Instead, it will later release aggregated information about the program. For example, one of the pieces of information that it has released is that there have been several international whistleblowers who have received rewards.

The reward paid, according to the Australian Financial Review, was $3.75 million. BHP Billiton agreed in 2015 to pay a $25 million penalty to settle the U.S. Government investigation into its sponsorship of foreign government officials to attend the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008. The company denied any knowledge of a whistleblower.

If you have questions about this information or want to speak to one of our FCPA whistleblower attorneys about reporting bribery of a government official through the SEC whistleblower law, please contact us via our online contact form.