This article first appeared in the Business section of the Sunday Independent on 15 May 2016.
Unlike the US, whistleblowers in Ireland do not generally receive financial rewards. But Irish individuals with information on corporate wrongdoing in US organisations can benefit from the US whistleblower programme. Is it just a matter of time before we see Ireland’s first whistleblower millionaire?
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act became federal law in the US in 2010. The Act recognises the valuable role whistleblowers can play in uncovering and prosecuting corporate wrongdoing by offering significant financial incentives to encourage whistleblowers to come forward.
Under the Act, individual whistleblowers who provide “original information” on corporate wrongdoing to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), which leads to the wrongdoer being fined $1m or more, may be awarded between 10-30% of the amount of the fine.
Whistleblowers can submit information alone or jointly with another individual. The information must be “original” (that is to say not known to the SEC from any other source), and must come from the whistleblower’s independent knowledge or analysis.
Significantly, the whistleblower does not have to be an employee of the organisation in question. The information is submitted directly to the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, which was established to administer the program.