Grassley urges SEC Chairman to make sure new whistleblower office is effective

WASHINGTON – Seeking an effective whistleblower office to help fight financial fraud, Senator Chuck Grassley is asking the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to reconsider proposed regulations for the whistleblower provisions created by the financial regulation legislation enacted last summer.

“These changes were supposed to strengthen the ability of whistleblowers at the SEC to help correct wrongdoing,” Grassley said.  “But, so far, the regulations that have been proposed would unravel the good of the legislation.  The draft regulations are overly complex and overly restrictive.  They emphasize internal compliance over accuracy, and they perpetuate an environment hostile to whistleblowers by failing to provide any guidance to prevent retaliation against SEC employees who speak up.”

In a detailed critique in a letter dated today, Grassley urged the Chairman to use the time left by delays in releasing final rules to make sure the SEC whistleblower program is as strong as possible and complies with what Congress intended for whistleblowers with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Grassley was involved in developing the SEC whistleblower provisions that are part of the Dodd-Frank law.  Grassley often provides assistance with whistleblower legislation because he has authored numerous whistleblower protection statutes, including the 1986 and 2009 amendments to the False Claims Act, the 2006 amendments to the Internal Revenue Service whistleblower program, and the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower protections for employees of publicly traded companies.

Grassley said he also has seen other federal agencies struggle to implement strong whistleblower provisions.  He said the most recent example is the Internal Revenue Service, which ultimately was able to ensure the independence of a new whistleblower protection director who consolidates all tips and is able to prevent enforcement personnel from invalidating individual whistleblower claims.

“The SEC has a bad track record when it comes to using valuable information from whistleblowers, and the changes to the law last year were intended to turn that around.  Now, it’s up to the SEC.  If the agency fails to set up an effective whistleblower office, then regulators are compromising their own ability to identify financial wrongdoing and protect the public and marketplace,” Grassley said.  “The stakes are very high.  We’ve seen how SEC failures can hurt anyone with a pension plan or money in a retirement fund.  In recent years, the SEC missed the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history in the Madoff case, and it might have been avoided if the SEC had given whistleblowers a chance.  Whistleblowers can be an effective line of defense.  Their information can shed a lot of light on what might be happening.  There’s no excuse when public officials ignore that information or, worse yet, allow retaliation against whistleblowers who stick their necks out for the good of all of us.”

Click here for Grassley’s letter to SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro.