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CFTC reports high whistleblower activity, dramatic payouts

Calling it a "transformative year" for its whistleblower program, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced recently that it has awarded whistleblowers more than $45 million in rewards for identifying illegal activity. This is a dramatic increase over prior years.

"Whistleblowers have added significant value to our enforcement program by enabling the commission to swiftly identify misconduct and hold wrongdoers accountable," the agency's enforcement director said in a statement. "I expect this trend to continue as the Commission continues to receive increasing numbers of high-quality whistleblower tips."

Under the CFTC's and a number of other federal whistleblower programs, people who report fraud may be eligible to receive between 10 and 30 percent of the return on their tips. Although the agency did not specify how many whistleblowers had assisted it, July marked the single largest whistleblower award -- $30 million to a single individual. In a separate case, the CFTC announced it had for the first time granted an award to a whistleblower living abroad.

In contrast to the CFTC, which is actively courting whistleblowers, the Securities and Exchange Commission appears to be working to limit its program. In June, the SEC proposed changing its whistleblower program so that it would have greater flexibility in the size of the awards. Although the SEC considers its program a success, the agency's chairman believes it would work even better if the agency could increase payouts in small but crucial cases and cut back on massive awards.

If you work in the financial services industry, you may be in a position to notice fraud or other wrongdoing. Before you blow the whistle, though, you should take steps to protect your rights -- and protect yourself from retaliation. An experienced lawyer can help you present your case effectively and work to prevent retaliation by your employer or others.

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