On Friday, July 8, 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced Sean McKessey, Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, will be leaving his post by the end of the month. Jane Norberg, Deputy Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower will serve as Acting Chief until a replacement is found.
McKessey previously worked at the SEC from 1997 to 2000 as Senior Counsel in the SEC’s Enforcement Division. In, February 2011 he became the first head of the SEC’s whistleblower program. He is credited with helping to establish an office that assesses and reviews whistleblower tips, evaluates award claims, and makes recommendations to the SEC on whether claimants are eligible to receive an award.
During his time as chief of the program:
- The Office of the Whistleblower received and reviewed over 14,000 tips;
- Over 30 whistle blowers have been awarded more than $85 million in awards;
- The awards have varied in amounts, including awards for $500 thousand, $3 million, a recent $17 million award, with its largest award as much as $30 million;
- The SEC brought over $504 million in successful enforcement actions due to the whistleblower tips (collecting $453 million to date), which included over $300 million in disgorgement and interest for investors who were harmed; and
- The SEC charged companies that discouraged whistleblowers through confidentiality agreements and retaliation.
McKessy made the following comments about his time with the program, “It has been an honor and pleasure to serve as the first Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower. Working with the extraordinarily talented and dedicated staff of the Whistleblower Office and the Enforcement Division in standing up a groundbreaking and exemplary Whistleblower Office has been the highlight of my professional career.”
The change in leadership will not change the focus of the program. As Subject to Inquiry readers already know, it is important to have internal compliance programs that are communicated and followed throughout the organization, so if a complaint is ever made, the organization can show the regulator(s) that proper steps were taken to investigate and correct any illegal action(s) outlined in the complaint or uncovered as a result of the investigative process. And as always, a company should take prompt action to address misconduct within its ranks.