Detecting Securities Fraud with Whistleblower Programs

After the 2007 to 2008 financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession, several federal regulations and laws have been put in place to minimize the amount and extent of securities fraud. Security fraud, also known as stock fraud and investment fraud, includes any practice that induces investors to make financial or investment decisions on the basis of false information, particularly in the stock or commodities markets. Government agencies have worked to limit the financial damaged created by fraudulent activities by implementing whistleblower programs that empower and reward individuals who come forward with information regarding securities fraud or fraudulent activities.

The United States’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has an entire office designated to whistleblowers. The Commission believes that whistleblowers can be invaluable tools, helping the Commission to identify fraudulent activities, naming those involved, and detecting these activities much earlier. A major perk of the whistleblower program is that the Commission has been able to minimize the financial damage incurred by investors due to securities fraud.

The Dodd-Frank Act created in 2010 established the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Law in order to encourage company employees to come forward with information. The Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Law has given more power to the SEC to detect potentially financially disastrous securities fraud. According to the SEC website, the governmental department “oversees the key market participants in the securities world including securities exchanges, securities brokers and dealers, investment advisors, and mutual funds”. Some states have followed the national government’s model by adopting individual whistleblower programs. Indiana and Utah are two examples of states that have followed the federal government’s example. Edward Siedle, a representative of a whistleblower in Indiana stated “leveraging the power of the whistleblower is tremendously helpful, and it’s not costing the state anything.”

While the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Law establishes that whistleblowers can and should come forward and any interference by the company in question is strictly forbidden, the law does not force companies to establish their own programs aimed at increasing company transparency. Private Investigators can lobby companies to establish whistleblower programs that will help prevent securities fraud and other illicit activities. By creating company-wide whistleblower programs, companies can save significant amounts of money for the company itself and investors.

The Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Jo White stated in a speech to the Ray Garrett Jr. Corporate and Securities Law Institute at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago that she “would urge that, especially in the post-financial-crisis era, in which regulators and right minded companies are searching for new, more aggressive ways to improve corporate culture and compliance, it is past time to stop wringing our hands about whistleblowers”. According to Investment News it has been over five years since the SEC created the whistleblower program, and as Chairman White explained the SEC has “seen enough to know that whistleblowers increase our (SEC) efficiency and conserve our scarce resources”. The Chairwoman also noted the importance of individual internal compliance programs in companies. Hiring a Private Investigator to advocate for a company-wide whistleblower programs can prevent costly legal fees, poor publicity, and loss of faith in the company. The financial damage to a company because of securities fraud can be astronomical, and hiring a PI to help the company create or expand a whistleblower program can save companies millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Tiffany Walker – Blog Writer, Lauth Investigations