HomeFAQsWhistleblowingWhistleblower Rewards: Programs & Payouts Guide

Whistleblower Rewards: Programs & Payouts Guide

Whistleblowers may be eligible to receive whistleblower rewards for voluntarily providing the proper authorities with original, timely, and credible information that leads to a successful enforcement action against a fraudster.

Rewards are paid as a percentage of the money recovered from a qui tam lawsuit or claim made under the IRS, SEC or CFTC whistleblower programs. Each program requires the government to pay a minimum reward to the whistleblower of between 10 and 15 percent. Under some laws, the reward can be as much as 30 percent of the money recovered.

U.S. whistleblower reward laws are incredibly powerful, and now the world’s strongest laws compensating and protecting whistleblowers. Under certain laws, both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals can qualify for financial rewards as whistleblowers if they disclose violations that result in the U.S. obtaining sanctions from the wrongdoer.

History of Whistleblower Rewards

The first known whistleblower law to provide a reward was the qui tam law. This law was enacted in 1318 by King Edward II, who offered one-third of the penalty to the qui tam relator, or “whistleblower,” when the relator successfully sued government officials who moonlighted as wine merchants.

The Maintenance and Embracery Act 1540 of Henry VIII provided that common informers could sue for certain forms of interference with the course of justice in legal proceedings that were concerned with the title to land.

It wasn’t until 1863 that a new modern whistleblower law was introduced. Enacted by Abraham Lincoln during the civil war, the False Claims Act qui tam provision permits citizens to sue on behalf of the government and be paid a percentage of the recovery. This law is still in effect today and is one of the strongest for whistleblowers.

Whistleblower Rewards: Programs & Payouts

The whistleblower rewards a whistleblower is eligible to receive, and amount, depends on the type of fraud or violation being reported and the detail of information provided.

Some reward programs pay rewards to whistleblowers who report government contract fraud or schemes designed to defraud the government. Others pay rewards and protect employees who work for corporations and report fraud, misconduct, mismanagement and other financial negligence.

Internationally, rewards are paid to those who expose foreign corruption, such as bribery or uncover sophisticated money laundering schemes.

Below is a list of the most established U.S. whistleblower laws:

False Claims Act / Qui Tam Provision

The federal False Claims Act empowers individuals and other entities to enforce laws that prohibit fraud in government contracting. The first modern whistleblower law, the False Claims Act, incorporated qui tam at the core of its anti-corruption powers.

The whistleblower may be eligible to receive a reward between 15 and 25 percent of what the government recovers, if the government intervenes in a qui tam case.

IRS Whistleblower Program

The IRS Whistleblower Office pays whistleblower rewards to those who report original, timely, and credible information to the IRS and the information results in the collection of taxes, penalties, or other interest from the noncompliant taxpayer.

The IRS may also pay rewards for information regarding a matter that is the subject of an IRS criminal tax fraud investigation, or on reports of falsified information provided on forms required by the IRS. If the taxes, penalties, interest and other amounts in dispute exceed $2 million, and a few other qualifications are met, the IRS will pay 15 percent to 30 percent of the amount collected.

SEC Whistleblower Reward Program

Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC Office of the Whistleblower administers this reward program. The main purpose of this office and program is to minimize harm to investors, preserve the integrity of US capital markets, and quickly hold accountable those responsible for unlawful conduct under securities law. The Securities Exchange Commission Commission is authorized by the United States Congress to provide monetary awards.

Eligible individuals are those who come forward with original and credible information that leads to an SEC enforcement action.To receive an award, the sanctions must be over $1,000,000. The range for awards is between 10 to 30 percent of the money collected.

CFTC Whistleblower Award Program

Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission will pay anonymous whistleblowers a monetary reward to those with original information resulting in a sanction of $1 million or more. The CFTC does not disclose the exact dollar amount of any awards granted, nor do they disclose the name of the enforcement action in which the whistleblower provided information.

Whistleblowers are eligible to receive between 10 percent and 30 percent of the monetary sanctions collected from an investigation. No money is taken or withheld from injured customers to fund the program.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

Enacted by congress in 1977, The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is a United States law that prohibits the payment of anything of value to foreign government officials in order to obtain a business advantage. This includes foreign bribery, kickbacks, and other forms of unscrupulous bartering, even money laundering.

The FCPA also requires publicly traded corporations to make and keep accurate books and records. As part of the Dodd-Frank Act, if the SEC or CFTC sanctions a culpable party for over $1 million dollars, whistleblowers can obtain monetary rewards for disclosing violations of anti-corruption laws contained in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Under either the SEC or CFTC whistleblower program, a US or international whistleblower may receive an award of between 10 percent and 30 percent of the total monetary sanctions collected.

Other Reward Laws

There are several other laws that provide monetary rewards. However, these programs are not nearly as effective as the ones above:

Auto Safety Act

Under the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act, whistleblowers can receive a whistleblower reward of up to 30 percent of any monetary sanctions against a fraud. The total sanction amount must be over the $1,000,000 threshold, based on the quality of the information a whistleblower discloses. Read more about federal protections for auto-workers.

Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS)

In regards to the disclosures made about pollution on the high seas, the APPS whistleblower provision permits federal courts to pay whistleblowers up to 50% of the fines the government collects in a successful prosecution. View Ocean Pollution (APPS/MARPOL) Cases

The Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act

the Lacey Act makes it a federal crime to purchase, sell, import, export, acquire, or receive any wildlife that was taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State or in violation of any foreign law.

Under the Lacey Act, it is also illegal to mislabel wildlife shipments, bring injurious species into the country, and import live wildlife under inhumane conditions. Furthermore, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 is the primary law in the United States for protecting declining species. This act was created to protect critically imperiled species from extinction. The United States Supreme Court called it “the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species enacted by any nation”.

The ESA states:

“The Secretary or the Secretary of the Treasury shall pay, from sums received as penalties, fines, or forfeitures of property for any violation of this Act or any regulation issued hereunder (1) a reward to any person who furnishes information which leads to an arrest, a criminal conviction, civil penalty assessment, or forfeiture of property for any violation of this Act or any regulation issued hereunder, and (2) the reasonable and necessary costs incurred by any person in providing temporary care for any fish, wildlife, or plant pending the disposition of any civil or criminal proceeding alleging a violation of this Act with respect to that fish, wildlife, or plant. The amount of the reward, if any, is to be designated by the Secretary or the Secretary of the Treasury, as appropriate.”

Latest from The Blog

  • December 6, 2022

    On December 6, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in United States, ex rel. Polansky v. Executive Health Resources, Inc. The case concerns the issue of whether or not the U.S. government can dismiss False Claim Act whistleblowers' qui tam suits after initially declining to intervene in them. According to whistleblower attorneys, the case has tremendous implications for the efficacy of the False Claims Act. “All of the Justices’ questioning at oral argument appear to be deferential to the government’s position that the DOJ can dismiss a case that it did not initially intervene in,” said whistleblower attorney David Colapinto, a founding partner at the qui tam firm Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto. “However, the Court is struggling with what standard, if any, should be applied by courts at a hearing on the government’s motion to dismiss a whistleblower’s False Claims Act suit, years after the government has declined to intervene in the case.” "During the oral argument the government took the position that it’s just 'too bad' if the whistleblower has spent 'a ton of money' and years litigating the False Claims Act suit. That was brushed off as a reasonable risk that every whistleblower takes when filing suit," continued Colapinto, who has represented False Claims Act whistleblowers since the 1980s. "This turns the False Claims Act statute on its head. Congress created the right of a whistleblower to bring these suits without the government to protect the taxpayers." “If the ...

  • December 5, 2022

    On December 2, Michael D. Kohn, founding partner of the leading whistleblower law firm Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto (KKC), joined four representatives from the Libyan government to discuss whistleblowing in the United States and abroad. Kohn is also co-founder and president of the National Whistleblower Center (NWC). Friday’s event, which took place at the Meridian International Center, was one of many presentations that KKC and NWC put on for international guests. Titled “Anti-Corruption and Accountability within Governmental Institutions: A Project for Libya,” Kohn’s presentation covered U.S. whistleblower reward laws, government programs, and pending laws supporting whistleblowers in different fields. The participants hailed from audit, finance, and banking roles in the Libyan government. As part of the State Department’s professional exchange program, the International Visitor Leadership Program, these officials travel across the U.S. learning about American culture, business practices, and governmental affairs. Kohn explained the process in which whistleblower rewards are paid, which comes at no expense to U.S. taxpayers. During the Q&A segment, participants asked about the history of modern day whistleblower laws, penalties for false or frivolous whistleblower tips to government officials, and media involvement in the world of whistleblowing. Kohn also discussed the cultural motivations to blow the whistle. While honesty is taught to be praised in many scenarios, Kohn explained, it may backfire and lead to retaliation in instances of whistleblowing. This is where financial rewards ...

  • December 2, 2022

    Each year the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Office of the Whistleblower releases an Annual Report to Congress detailing the activities of the highly successful SEC Whistleblower Program. The annual report for the 2022 Fiscal Year (FY 2022), which ended on September 30, reveals that the SEC Whistleblower Program had a record-setting fiscal year. The SEC received a record 12,300 whistleblower tips in FY 2022 and issued 103 whistleblower awards totaling approximately $229 million. Here are some key takeaways from the report: SEC Whistleblower Program Continues Success of Record-Shattering FY 2021 “Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 continued to build on the record-breaking success of FY 2021 for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Whistleblower Program,” the report begins. In fact, FY 2021 was not just a record-breaking year but a record-shattering one. That year, the SEC received a record 12,200 whistleblower tips and issued a record $564 million in whistleblower awards to a record 108 individuals. Over the course FY 2021, the whistleblower program issued more awards than in all previous years combined. The SEC Whistleblower Program’s Annual Report for FY 2022 shows that FY 2021 was not a fluke. In FY 2022 the SEC received a new record 12,300 whistleblower tips. It also once again issued over 100 whistleblower awards. While the overall monetary amount awarded to whistleblowers dipped, the difference can almost entirely be attributed to two $100 million-plus awards issued by the ...

Frequently Asked Questions

With most whistleblower programs, whistleblowers (known as “relators” in qui tam lawsuits) may be eligible to receive a reward based on a percentage of the monies recovered by the government in a successful action against a fraudster. Reward amounts range anywhere from 10% to 30%, and depend on the information provided, among many other factors. Established whistleblower programs that offer rewards include the SEC, CFTC, IRS, and the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act.

Although not considered a reward per se, most of the laws and programs mentioned also protect whistleblowers against retaliation for engaging in a protected activity, such as reporting fraud and other violations of federal securities, commodities, and contract law.

Those being retaliated against may file for damages, as many of the aforementioned laws provide monetary damages and remedies, such as lost pay, benefits, compensatory damages, and attorney fees and costs.

To become a whistleblower, you’ll need to file a claim with the agency in which the fraud you are reporting relates. For securities frauds, the SEC, for commodities fraud, the CFTC, for government contracting fraud, the U.S. Government, among others.

There are very strict rules and technical procedures for filing any sort of whistleblower lawsuit or a request for a whistleblower reward. Failure to file swiftly or failure to follow specific procedures outlined in the laws can result in a whistleblower losing his or her claim to a reward.

If you have information of a fraud and would like to report, get in touch with one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys today for a free, confidential consultation.