The Securities and Exchange Commission has made its first award to a whistleblower under its new program created under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Informants who give the commission “original information” leading to action resulting in $1 million or greater in penalties are entitled to receive 10-30% of whatever sanctions the regulator collects.
The SEC announced that it would pay $50,000 to this particular tipster for assistance provided in stopping a “multi-million dollar fraud.” This person gave “significant information” and documents, which helped speed up the agency’s probe. Now, the defendants in the securities case must pay about $1 million in penalties, of which the Commission has collected about $150,000. The $50,000 is about 30% of that amount. If a final judgment is issued against other defendants, the whistleblower could receive a larger amount.
In other SEC-related news, Larry Eiben the co-founder of Moxy Vote, an investment web site, wants the Commission to put into effect rules that recognize a new investment adviser category. He wants investors to be able to use a “neutral Internet voting platform” to get information about investments, as well as be able to not just vote shares during corporate meetings, but also “designate as the recipient of proxy materials” for transmission by companies with SEC-registered stock.
Eiben believes the rule changes is necessary because under existing regulations, retail investors cannot use the Internet to vote their shares or collect and get information through means that they might find most helpful when determining how to vote. He says the change will tackle what he considers an ongoing issue: “low participation by retail investors in voting shares of their portfolio companies.”
Unfortunately, the Internet continues to prove an effective tool for perpetuating financial fraud. Earlier this month, the SEC obtained an emergency asset freeze order stopping an alleged $600 million Ponzi scam that was about to collapse. The defendants are Rex Venture Group and its owner Paul Burkes, who is an online marketer.
Per the Commission, the two of them raised money from over one million clients on the Internet using ZeekRewards.com. They allegedly gave customers several options for earning money through a rewards program. Two of them involved the purchase of investment contracts. However, none of these securities were SEC registered, which they are required to be under federal securities laws. Meantime, investors were promised up to half of the company’s daily net profits via a profit sharing system. Also, despite the defendants’ allegedly giving them the impression that the company was profitable, investors received payouts that were unrelated to such profits, and instead, in typical Ponzi scam fashion, the money paid to them came from the newer investors.
The SEC said its order to freeze assets will allow the Ponzi scam victims to recoup more of their money so whatever is left of what they invested with ZeekRewards can be used as payouts to them. Burkes has agreed to settle the Commission’s allegations without denying or admitting to wrongdoing. He will, however, pay a $4 million penalty.
Whistleblower Program, SEC
S.E.C. Pays Out First Whistle-Blower Reward, The New York Times, August 21, 2012
Read Eiben’s Petition to the SEC (PDF)
Read the SEC complaint in its case against Rex Venture Group (PDF)
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