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SEC Announces $325,000 Whistleblowing Award

The SEC just announced a $325,000 award given to a former investment firm employee who blew the whistle to the SEC with specific information that allowed the federal agency to begin an investigation that later uncovered extensive fraudulent activity at the tipster's ex-employer.

CFTC: Adopt New Security Measures, Or Else?

Congress created the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 1974 to, alongside the National Futures Association, oversee commodities trading in this country. Since then, the CFTC's regulatory power has expanded further and further.

Last month, the CFTC greenlit the latest strap-tightening policy suggestions by the NFA: members of the NFA "should" implement stronger cybersecurity policies. f you're in the commodities or derivatives industry, get ready to make some changes.

Pay Ratio Regulations Coming Soon. Are You Ready?

'Tis the Season for Corporate Oversight. In house can likely feel the mounting tension in the air ...

The latest blow to corporate and financial opacity was adopted by the SEC on August 5, 2015 -- and many people didn't even know about it. On that day, the SEC voted to implement Sec. 953(b) of the Dodd-Frank Act, which requires companies to disclose a pay-ratio gap (chasm?) between the CEO's total compensation and the median annual total compensation of all other company employees.

This new change in Federal Law is likely a source of tension among business executives who are eager to deflect attention away from the fact that the average S&P 500 CEO makes 216 times more than the average employee of the same company.

SCOTUS Gives Insider Trading a Pass

In a move that is sure to inflame the passions of Occupiers (a la, the 99 percent), SCOTUS refused, on Wednesday, to review a decision by the Second Circuit which threw out the convictions of hedge fund managers Anthony Chiasson and Todd Newman. The decision came as a major blow to both US Attorney Preet Bharara and the US Justice Department's attempt to crackdown on insider trading in the midst of increasing disapproval from the public.

SCOTUS' refusal all but affirms the Second Circuit's narrow definition of insider trading.

Companies are much more willing to part with millions of dollars than to admit that they have done wrong and violated the law. Settlements with enforcement agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission chief among them, almost never require companies to admit wrongdoing -- almost.

For the past two years, the SEC has been pursuing such admissions more fervently. Under a new-ish policy, the Commission requires admissions of wrongdoing in "egregious" cases.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged 36 firms with securities violations connected to the issuance of municipal bonds. Those banks, underwriters of the bonds, will pay between $40,000 to $500,000 for making materially false statements or omissions about the issuer's compliance with disclosure rules.

The enforcement action is the first the SEC has taken under its Municipalities Continuing Disclosure Cooperation Initiative. The MCDC is a voluntary program that allows participating banks to self-report violations in exchange for standardized settlement terms.

Your company may not be paying its legal department in bitcoin yet -- and it may never -- but bitcoin technology could soon change the way financial operations work. Nasdaq is currently experimenting with bitcoin's blockchain technology to see if it can speed up trades on its stock market.

Right now, the experiment is limited to a small market for securities in privately held companies. If the project is successful, it could ramp up the speed of securities trades -- potentially transforming the industry. For in house counsel, now's a good time to start taking note of bitcoin.

When the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed in 2010, it included an expanded whistleblower bounty program. As an incentive to report violations of financial regulations, whistleblowers are entitled to 10 to 30 percent of an enforcement action's recovery.

If they can ever get it. According to a review by The Wall Street Journal, 83 percent of the whistleblowers who have applied for their awards have yet to have their claims addressed.

KBR Inc., a Texas tech and engineering company, has settled the first SEC "pretaliation" enforcement action under Dodd-Frank, Inside Counsel reported yesterday. KBR's standard confidentiality agreement, used in internal investigations, forbids employees from "discussing any particulars" about the investigation without prior authorization from the law department. That's illegal pretaliation, according to the SEC.

In-house counsel, get ready to spend your weekend reviewing your company's confidentiality policies!

Justice Dept. Seeks Clarification on Insider Trading

Last week, the United States went back to the Second Circuit to ask for a rehearing in United States v. Newman, where that court overturned the convictions of two hedge fund managers for trading on inside information.

The Second Circuit rejected Newman and Chiasson's convictions on a "tipper/tippee" theory of liability, prompting onlookers to urge Congress to clarify what the heck qualifies as insider trading.