Calculating SEC Whistleblower Awards: A Theoretical Approach
The Dodd-Frank Act provides that Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) whistleblower awards must equal not less than ten and not more than thirty percent of the monetary penalties collected in the action to which they relate; SEC Rule 21F-6 provides criteria that the SEC may consider in determining the award percentage within the statutory bounds. When applying the Rule 21F-6 criteria, the SEC is required to think only in percentage terms, ignoring the dollar payout the award will actually yield. Last June, the SEC proposed to change this, at least in cases where the existing methodology would yield an award less than $2 million or greater than $30 million. The proposed revisions to Rule 21F-6 have garnered controversy and have not yet been implemented. Do they make sense? To begin to answer that question requires an understanding of the purpose of whistleblower awards and an evaluation of how well the existing award calculation methodology advances that purpose. This Article provides both. The analysis suggests that the controversial proposed amendments to Rule 21F-6 are warranted but incomplete.