Risk & Compliance

SEC: 1,300 ”Whistles” Blown Each Day

Most tips concern accounting problems at public companies; ''a tremendous source of leads.''
Stephen TaubAugust 3, 2004

The Securities and Exchange Commission has fielded nearly 250,000 tips about possible securities-law violations so far this year, according to USA Today.

In fact, the commission receives more than 1,300 emails each day through its online complaint service, according to the paper, citing John Stark of the SEC’s enforcement division. Most concern accounting problems at public companies.

“It’s a tremendous source of leads,” Stark told the paper.

In 2003, the first full year that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was in effect, the SEC fielded a total of 180,000 email complaints, according to USA Today; in 2001, the year of Enron Corp.’s bankruptcy, that figure was 77,000.

A likely reason for the increase is the provision of Sarbox that offers federal protection to whistle-blowers. In March, a survey found that in response to Sarbanes-Oxley, nearly three-quarters of companies had established their own whistle-blower complaint process.

A study published in mid-April found that despite the frequency of their claims, employees are finding it especially hard to prevail when they assert that they have been punished for blowing the whistle. Of 156 claims asserting protection under Sarbanes-Oxley that had been examined, federal investigators had dismissed more than 80 percent.