If you are an SEC whistleblower, then it’s likely that at some stage you will come across SEC Form TCR. TCR stands for Tips, Complaints Referrals and the SEC Form TCR allows whistleblowers to provide information to the SEC and become eligible for an SEC whistleblower award. If you want to submit SEC Form TCR, you should contact an SEC whistleblower attorney immediately, as filing out the form incorrectly could affect your ability to claim an SEC whistleblower award.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is a regulatory agency responsible for enforcement of federal securities laws in the United States (such as those under the Securities Exchange Act) and regulating companies that issue securities. The goals of the SEC are to root-out fraud, protect investors, maintain fair and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.
The SEC’s primary mandate is to oversee the securities industry, which typically includes policing companies that have stock traded on the NYSE or NASDAQ. In order to do this, the SEC has an Enforcement Division which investigates fraud, potential violations of securities laws and enforces securities laws by prosecuting the violators. The SEC has the power to open enforcement actions, impose fines and, while it cannot bring criminal charges, it has the power to refer matters to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation and criminal prosecution. In fact, many SEC investigations are run side-by-side with the DOJ and violators can face punishment from both agencies.
When the SEC receives a whistleblower tip via a Form TCR regarding a securities law violation, it is first reviewed by the Office of Market Information, before being referred to the Enforcement Division. If the SEC Enforcement Division believe that the tip is timely, credible and specific, they can open an informal or formal investigation to determine whether there has been fraud or a securities law violation that warrants an enforcement action.
A key part of an SEC investigation is the taking of testimony from witnesses and gathering of evidence. This often involves speaking to whistleblowers who may have evidence. If you are a whistleblower who reported a violation and are contacted by the Enforcement Division, SEC staff will likely want to speak with you about your tip and obtain supplemental information. If this is the case, you should contact an attorney now.
The SEC Whistleblower Program
In an effort to increase compliance with federal securities laws, the SEC established the SEC Whistleblower Program. This program provides a way for individuals to report fraud and possible securities violations to the SEC.
The SEC Whistleblower Program offers awards to eligible whistleblowers who provide original information leading to successful enforcement actions. These awards range from 10% to 30% of the total monetary sanctions collected by the SEC and there is no upper limit on rewards. The highest reward given by the SEC so far was $279 million. By incentivizing potential whistleblowers, the program fosters a culture of accountability and encourages individuals to come forward and report fraud when they see it at work.
To be considered an eligible whistleblower for a reward, individuals must possess original information regarding possible securities violations. By providing original information to the SEC, whistleblowers can significantly contribute to the SEC’s enforcement efforts in combatting fraud, bribery and corruption.
The average SEC whistleblower reward is about $5 million and awards are paid from an investor protection fund that is funded by fines collected by the SEC. This means that payments to whistleblowers do not cost the taxpayer anything. The whistleblower reward program is self-funded as it only pays whistleblowers from the fines the SEC collects.
SEC Form TCR
The SEC Form TCR (Tip, Complaint, or Referral) is the initial step whistleblowers take to report potential securities violations. The journey to becoming a successful SEC whistleblower begins with completing the SEC Form TCR and submitting it to the SEC’s Whistleblower Office. By completing Form TCR, whistleblowers provide the SEC with critical information which is passed to the SECs Office of Market Information for review. If the information is credible, specific and timely, it will be given to the Enforcement Division where it will assist the SEC conduct investigations and bring enforcement actions.
The SEC Form TCR is an important form because it must be signed under penalty of perjury, and providing false information on the Form TCR could result in criminal charges. In addition, a poorly filled out TCR is unlikely to make it past the Office of Market Information and result in an enforcement action. In fact, the vast majority of Form TCRs do not get referred to the Enforcement Division because they lack credible, specific and timely allegations. As a result, it is critical that potential whistleblowers speak to an experienced SEC whistleblower lawyer before filing a Form TCR.
SEC Whistleblower Attorneys
Navigating the the SEC whistleblower program can be daunting and difficult. Simple mistakes can result in a whistleblower losing their ability to claim a whistleblower reward, or exposing their identity. Seeking guidance from an SEC whistleblower lawyer can help you understand your rights, legal protections, and how to maximize the potential for a whistleblower award. SEC whistleblower attorneys at FTI Law possess in-depth knowledge of securities laws and are experts in whistleblower law. They can help you navigate through the whistleblower process if you are thinking of reporting a violation. If you are not ready to speak to an attorney, try the free, online, anonymous SEC whistleblower evaluation here.
An SEC whistleblower lawyer is also a critical asset when it comes to claiming a whistleblower award. After a successful enforcement action, if the monetary sanctions in the matter exceed $1 million, the SEC will post a Notice of Covered Action on its website indicating that the fine is eligible for a whistleblower award. Once this happens, whistleblowers have just 90 days to file an SEC whistleblower claim which must be done by filing Form WB-App.
Once a claim is filed, the SEC whistleblower office and claims review staff will make a preliminary determination on whether a reward is warranted. The number of awards made each year is contained in the SEC Office of the Whistleblower’s annual report.
The Impact of Whistleblowing
Whistleblowers play a crucial role in fighting securities fraud, providing the SEC with vital information to initiate enforcement actions. While securities fraud can seem like an abstract concept, it includes violations of the foreign corrupt practices act (FCPA) which often involves bribery of public officials. Stopping a securities violation and preventing bribery and corruption is essential to upholding the rule of law and providing free and fair markets for companies to operate in. Through the whistleblower program the SEC’s enforcement staff have uncovered many fraudulent and corrupt schemes, and have recovered over $1 billion in fines.
The Dodd Frank Act serves as the foundation for the SEC Whistleblower Program, establishing protections and providing incentives for whistleblowers. Additionally, the Securities Exchange Act (Exchange Act) empowers the SEC to regulate and oversee securities markets, ensuring fair practices and investor protection.
The SEC is not the only agency running a whistleblower rewards program. Other regulators also have similar programs. For example, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) runs the CFTC Whistleblower Program which extends similar protections and incentives to individuals reporting fraud and violations within the commodity and derivatives markets. In addition, the False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to be rewarded for reporting fraud against the United States.
Recognizing the risks associated with exposing misconduct, the SEC Whistleblower Program offers robust protection against retaliation. The Dodd Frank Act, which underpins the program, prohibits employers from taking adverse actions against whistleblowers who report potential securities violations, ensuring that whistleblowers have peace of mind when speaking up about violations. In addition, there are also whistleblower protections available under Sarbanes Oxley (SOX). If you believes you have suffered retaliation for raising concerns about securities law violations, or reporting FCPA violations, there are strict time limits regarding when you can make a claim for retaliation. These time limit could be as short as 6 months. As a result, you should contact the experienced whistleblower attorneys at FTI Law immediately if you believe you have been retaliated against for reporting violations.