Frequently Asked Questions

The answers to these frequently asked questions represent the views of the staff of the Office of the Whistleblower. They are not rules, regulations or statements of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Further, the Commission has neither approved nor disapproved them. These FAQs provide short general summaries of certain key features of the SEC Whistleblower Program and do not purport to be a complete or comprehensive discussion of all of its provisions. For detailed information about the program, including eligibility requirements and certain limitations that apply, please see Section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the Final Rules implementing the program.


  1. What is the SEC Whistleblower Program?
  2. Who is an eligible whistleblower?
  3. What information can I submit to the SEC?
  4. What does it mean to “voluntarily” provide information? 
  5. What is “original information?” 
  6. How might my information “lead to” a successful SEC action?
  7. I work at a company with an internal compliance process. Can I report internally and still be eligible for a whistleblower award?
  8. I provided information to the SEC before the enactment of Dodd-Frank on July 21, 2010. Am I eligible for an award? 
  9. How do I submit information under the SEC whistleblower program?
  10. Can I submit my information anonymously? 
  11. Will the SEC keep my identity confidential?
  12. What happens to my tip once it's received by the SEC?
  13. How will I learn about the opportunity to apply for an award?
  14. How do I apply for an award?
  15. How can I apply for an award in connection with a related action?
  16. What factors does the SEC consider in determining the amount of the award?
  17. Can I appeal the SEC's award decision?
  18. What rights do I have if my employer retaliates against me for reporting a possible securities violation?
  19. If I have more questions who can I call?

1. What is the SEC Whistleblower Program?

The Whistleblower Program was created by Congress to provide monetary incentives for individuals to come forward and report possible violations of the federal securities laws to the SEC. Under the program eligible whistleblowers (defined below) are entitled to an award of between 10% and 30% of the monetary sanctions collected in actions brought by the SEC and related actions brought by certain other regulatory and law enforcement authorities.

The Program also prohibits retaliation by employers against employees who provide us with information about possible securities violations.


2. Who is an eligible whistleblower?

An “eligible whistleblower” is a person who voluntarily provides the SEC with original information about a possible violation of the federal securities laws that has occurred, is ongoing, or is about to occur. The information provided must lead to a successful SEC action resulting in an order of monetary sanctions exceeding $1 million. One or more people are allowed to act as a whistleblower, but companies or organizations cannot qualify as whistleblowers. You are not required to be an employee of the company to submit information about that company. See Rule 21F-2. In addition, to be eligible for an award, the information must be provided in the form and manner required under the whistleblower rules.  See Rule 21F-9 and FAQ 9.


3. What information can I submit to the SEC?

The SEC conducts investigations into possible violations of the federal securities laws. In general, the more specific, credible, and timely a whistleblower tip, the more likely it is that the tip will be forwarded to investigative staff for further follow-up or investigation. For instance, if the tip identifies individuals involved in the scheme, provides examples of particular fraudulent transactions, or points to non-public materials evidencing the fraud, the tip is more likely to be assigned to Enforcement staff for investigation.

The SEC does not have jurisdiction to take action on information that is outside the scope or coverage of the federal securities laws. We may, in appropriate circumstances, refer your matter to another regulatory or law enforcement agency.

If you would like to provide the SEC with information about fraud or wrongdoing involving potential violations of the federal securities laws please follow the instructions provided in Rule 21F-9 and FAQ 9. Some examples of the kind of conduct the SEC is interested in include:

  • Ponzi scheme, Pyramid Scheme, or a High-Yield Investment Program
  • Theft or misappropriation of funds or securities
  • Manipulation of a security's price or volume
  • Insider trading
  • Fraudulent or unregistered securities offering
  • False or misleading statements about a company (including false or misleading SEC reports or financial statements)
  • Abusive naked short selling
  • Bribery of, or improper payments to, foreign officials
  • Fraudulent conduct associated with municipal securities transactions or public pension plans
  • Other fraudulent conduct involving securities

4. What does it mean to “voluntarily” provide information? 

Your information is provided “voluntarily” if you provide it to us or another regulatory or law enforcement authority before (i) we request it from you or your lawyer or (ii) Congress, another regulatory or enforcement agency or self-regulatory organization (such as FINRA) asks you to provide the information in connection with an investigation or certain examinations or inspections. See Rule 21F-4(a).


5. What is “original information?” 

“Original information” is information derived from your independent knowledge (facts known to you that are not derived from publicly available sources) or independent analysis (evaluation of information that may be publicly available but which reveals information that is not generally known) that is not already known by us. So if we received your information previously from another person, that information will not be original information unless you were the original source of the information that the other person submitted. See Rule 21F-4(b)(1).


6. How might my information “lead to” a successful SEC action?

Your information satisfies the “led to” criterion if your information causes us to open a new investigation, re-open a previously closed investigation or pursue a new line of inquiry in connection with an ongoing investigation, and we bring a successful enforcement action based at least in part on the information you provided. Additionally, you may still be eligible if your information relates to an ongoing examination or investigation, if the information you provide significantly contributes to the success of our resulting enforcement action. You may also be eligible if you report your information internally first to your company, and the company later reports your information to us, or reports the results of an internal investigation that was prompted by your information, as long as you also report directly to us within 120 days. See Rule 21F-4(c).


7. I work at a company with an internal compliance process. Can I report internally and still be eligible for a whistleblower award?

You may report internally at your company, but internal reporting is not required to be considered for an award.  If you choose to report internally, but also report the information to us within 120 days of reporting it internally, then (i) we will consider your information to be reported to the SEC on the date you reported it internally, and (ii) if the company conducts an investigation based on your internal report and then reports the results to us, you will benefit from all the information the Company’s investigation uncovers. Also your participation in your internal compliance program will be a positive factor when we are considering an award percentage. Please visit the retaliation section for more information regarding your retaliation protections when reporting internally. See Rules 21F-4(b)(7) and 21F-4(c).


8. I provided information to the SEC before the enactment of Dodd-Frank on July 21, 2010. Am I eligible for an award? 

Awards are available only in connection with information submitted to the SEC after July 21, 2010. See Rule 21F-4(b)(1).


9. How do I submit information under the SEC whistleblower program?

In order to be considered for an award under the whistleblower program, you must submit your information either through our online Tips, Complaints and Referrals questionnaire and answer “yes” to the questions regarding participating in the whistleblower program or by completing our hardcopy Form-TCR and mailing or faxing it to the SEC Office of the Whistleblower, 100 F Street NE, Mail Stop 5631, Washington, DC 20549, Fax (703) 813-9322. In addition, you must personally execute the declarations under penalty of perjury on these forms in the sections provided. See Rule 21F-9.

Whistleblowers who use the online portal to submit a complaint receive a computer-generated confirmation of receipt with a TCR submission number. For those who submit a hard-copy Form TCR by mail or fax, the Office of the Whistleblower (“OWB”) sends an acknowledgement letter, which includes a TCR submission number.

After submitting an initial tip, a whistleblower is free to submit additional information or materials. Unless otherwise instructed, additional information may be sent to OWB in hard-copy by mail or fax and should include the original TCR submission number. OWB will acknowledge receipt of additional information or materials by letter.


10. Can I submit my information anonymously? 

Yes, you may submit anonymously. To be eligible for an award you must have an attorney represent you in connection with your submission. Your attorney must submit your information on your behalf either through our online Tips, Complaints and Referrals questionnaire, or by submitting hard copy Form TCR, in either case completing the required attorney certification.  In addition, you must provide the attorney with a completed hard copy Form TCR signed under penalty of perjury at the time of your anonymous submission. See Rule 21F-9.


11. Will the SEC keep my identity confidential?

Whether or not you seek anonymity, the SEC is committed to protecting your identity to the fullest extent possible. For example, we will not disclose your identity in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act. However, there are limits on our ability to shield your identity and in certain circumstances we must disclose it to outside persons or entities. For example, in an administrative or court proceeding, we may be required to produce documents or other information which would reveal your identity. In addition, as part of our ongoing investigatory responsibilities, we may use information you have provided during the course of our investigation. In appropriate circumstances, we may also provide information, subject to confidentiality requirements, to other governmental or regulatory entities.  See Rule 21F-7.


12. What happens to my tip once it's received by the SEC?

All tips, complaints and referrals received by the SEC are fully reviewed by our Enforcement staff. During the evaluation process, the Office of Market Intelligence (“OMI”) staff examines each tip to identify those with high-quality information that warrant the additional allocation of SEC resources. When OMI determines a complaint warrants deeper investigation, OMI staff assigns the complaint to one of the SEC’s eleven regional offices, a specialty unit, or to an Enforcement group in the Home Office. Complaints that relate to an existing investigation are forwarded to the staff working on the matter. Tips that could benefit from the specific expertise of another Division or Office within the SEC generally are forwarded to staff in that Division or Office for further analysis.

The SEC may use information from whistleblower tips and complaints in several different ways. For example, the SEC may initiate an enforcement investigation based on the whistleblower’s tip. A whistleblower tip may also prompt the SEC to commence an examination of a regulated entity or a review of securities filings, which may lead to an enforcement action. Even if the tip does not cause an investigation to be opened, it may still help lead to a successful enforcement action if the whistleblower provides additional information that significantly contributes to an ongoing or active investigation.

The SEC conducts its investigations on a confidential basis as a matter of policy. The purpose of this policy is to protect the integrity of any investigation from premature disclosure and to protect the privacy of persons involved in our investigations. The SEC generally does not comment on whether it has opened an investigation in a particular matter or the status of its investigations. While this can be frustrating, it is necessary to protect the integrity of the investigative process.


13. How will I learn about the opportunity to apply for an award?

We will post on this website Notices of Covered Action (“NoCA”) exceeding $1 million in sanctions so that anyone who believes they may be eligible will have an opportunity to apply for a whistleblower award. In addition, if staff has been working with you, or if you inquired regarding a posting, we may contact you or your attorney directly to alert you to the opportunity to apply for an award. However, OWB contacting you or your attorney does not mean we have made any determination regarding your eligibility for an award.  Additionally, the responsibility to apply for an award before the deadline passes lies solely with the whistleblower. See Rule 21F-10.

OWB sends email alerts to GovDelivery when the NoCA listing is updated.  Whistleblowers and other members of the public may sign up to receive an update via email every time the list of NoCAs on OWB’s website is updated. OWB typically posts new NoCAs on its website at the end of each month.


14. How do I apply for an award?

Once the case you believe your information led to is posted, you must complete and return Form WB-APP within 90 calendar days to the Office of the Whistleblower via mail to 100 F Street, NE, Mail Stop 5631, Washington DC 20549, or by fax (703) 813-9322. See Rule 21F-10. Section D of Form WB-APP requires that you provide the case name and notice number for the Covered Action for which you seek an award. If you do not identify a covered action, your application may be considered deficient and you may not be considered for an award. OWB acknowledges receipt of Form WB-APPs by letter. We will notify you when the Claims Review Staff issues a preliminary determination with respect to your award claim.  See Rule 21F-10(d).  OWB will not be able to give you status updates on your pending application for award.


15. How can I apply for an award in connection with a related action?

Individuals who provide information that leads to successful SEC actions resulting in monetary sanctions over $1 million may also be eligible to receive an award if the same information led to a related action brought by certain other authorities, such as a parallel criminal prosecution. You must complete and return Form WB-APP to the Office of the Whistleblower via mail to 100 F Street, NE, Mail Stop 5631, Washington DC 20549, or by fax (703) 813-9322. OWB acknowledges receipt of Form WB-APPs by letter.

If a final order imposing monetary sanctions has been entered in a related action at the time you submit your claim for an award in connection with SEC’s action, you must submit your claim for an award in that related action on the same Form WB-APP that you use for the SEC action.  If a final order imposing monetary sanctions in a related action has not been entered at the time you submit your claim for an award in connection with a SEC action, you must submit your claim on Form WB-APP within 90 calendar days of the issuance of a final order imposing sanctions in the related action. See Rule 21F-11.


16. What factors does the SEC consider in determining the amount of the award?

The Rules require that we consider many factors in determining the amount of an award based on the unique facts and circumstances of each case.

We may increase the award percentage based on the existence of these factors: 

  • The significance of the information you provided us to the success of any proceeding brought against wrongdoers. 
  • The extent of the assistance you provide us in our investigation and any successful proceeding. 
  • Our law enforcement interest in deterring violations of the securities laws by making awards to whistleblowers who provide information that leads to the successful enforcement of these laws. 
  • Whether, and the extent to which, you participated in your company's internal compliance systems, such as, for example, reporting the possible securities violations through internal whistleblower, legal or compliance procedures before, or at the same time, you reported them to us.

We may reduce the amount of an award based on these factors:

  • If you were a participant in, or culpable for the securities law violation(s) you reported. 
  • If you unreasonably delayed reporting the violation(s) to us. 
  • If you interfered with your company's internal compliance and reporting systems, such as, for example, making false statements to your compliance department that hindered its efforts to investigate possible wrongdoing. See Rule 21F-6.

17. Can I appeal the SEC's award decision?

You have two opportunities to appeal the award determination.  First, OWB will notify you of the preliminary determination of the SEC’s claims review staff to recommend that the SEC either grant or deny your award application, and if granted, the percentage amount of your award.   You may request reconsideration of this preliminary determination by submitting your response to OWB within 60 days of the later of (i) the issuance of the preliminary determination or (ii) your receipt of the record that was relied upon in making the preliminary determination, if you requested the record within 30 days of the issuance of the preliminary determination. See Rule 21F-10. The claims review staff will consider your response and forward its proposed final determination to the Commission.  If the Commission denies your application for an award, you may file an appeal in an appropriate United States Court of Appeals within 30 days of the Commission’s final decision being issued. See Rule 21F-13. However, if you are granted an award and the Commission follows the factors described above and the total amount awarded is between 10% and 30% of the monetary sanctions collected in the action, then the Commission’s decision is not appealable.


18. What rights do I have if my employer retaliates against me for submitting information to the SEC? 

Employers may not discharge, demote, suspend, harass, or in any way discriminate against you because of any lawful act done by you in, among other things, (i) providing information to us under the whistleblower program, or (ii) assisting us in any investigation or proceeding based on the information submitted. If you believe that your employer has wrongfully retaliated against you, you may report your concerns to the SEC and we may, in appropriate circumstances, bring an enforcement action against a company.

You can find more information about the Dodd-Frank whistleblower protections, including the time period by which a whistleblower must file a private action in federal court, in Section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Also, under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, you may be entitled to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor if you are retaliated against for reporting possible securities law violations. For more details on filing whistleblower complaints under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, please visit the Department of Labor's whistleblower website.

For more information about retaliation, please see the retaliation section of the website.


19. If I have more questions who can I call?

To help promote the agency’s whistleblower program and establish a line of communication with the public, OWB operates a whistleblower hotline where whistleblowers, or would-be whistleblowers, their attorneys, or other members of the public with questions about the program may call. Individuals leave messages on the hotline, which are returned by OWB attorneys within 24 business hours. To protect the identity of whistleblowers, OWB will not leave return messages unless the caller’s name is clearly and fully identified on the caller’s voicemail message, or unless the caller gives their permission for us to leave a message. If OWB is unable to leave a message because the individual’s name is not identified or if it appears to be a shared voicemail system, OWB attorneys make two additional attempts to contact the individual.

If you would like to speak to an attorney in the Office please call 202-551-4790 and provide your TCR submission number (if you have one) when you leave a message.