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SEC Whistleblower Program Allows the Agency to Pay $22 million to ex-Monsanto executive

SEC Whistleblower Program Allows the Agency to Pay $22 million to ex-Monsanto executive
A whistle blower in the US has been awarded more than $22 million from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s whistleblower program. Making the announcement the executive's lawyer said that the whistle blower, a former Monsanto Co executive, had alerted the agency about the ongoing improprieties in accounting at the US company's top-selling Roundup product.
According to the lawyer, Stuart Meissner in New York, in a statement, the $80 million settlement between the SEC and Monsanto in February also contained the award of $22,437,800 which was tied to the settlement money. This is the second largest award that the SEC has yet given to any whistleblower
Meissner declined to reveal the whistleblower's identity.
"It would be inappropriate for our company to comment on the SEC’s whistleblower program or this specific award," Monsanto said in an emailed statement.
Whistleblowers who give information to the agency which leads to a fine can be financially awarded by the SEC for the tip off due to the Dodd Frank financial reform law that has empowered the SEC.
The agency said in a statement on Tuesday, that since it launched the program in 2011, more than a total of $107 million have already been distributed as financial rewards to 33 whistleblowers by the SEC's program. The agency said that the award of $30 million to a whistle blower, given in 2014 was the highest single award amount till date.
Allegations that the company misstated its earnings in connection with Roundup, a popular weed killer had resulted in Monsanto's $80 million SEC settlement.
A corporate rebate program designed to boost Roundup sales was the basis around which the SEC's case against Monsanto revolved.
To account for millions of dollars in rebates that it offered to retailers and distributors, there were insufficient internal controls at Monsanto, the SEC had said during the investigation and hearings. Monsanto failed to recognize the costs of the rebate programs on its books even though it ultimately booked a sizeable amount of revenue. And hence the St. Louis-based agriculture company had "materially" misstate its consolidated earnings for a three-year period as a result.
Monsanto said at the time that it fully reserved funds to pay for the penalty in fiscal year 2015 but had neither admitted nor denied the charges.
The SEC did not reveal the enforcement action to which it was linked or the whistleblower's identity even as it announced the award earlier on Tuesday.
“Company employees are in unique positions behind-the-scenes to unravel complex or deeply buried wrongdoing. Without this whistleblower’s courage, information, and assistance, it would have been extremely difficult for law enforcement to discover this securities fraud on its own,” said Jane Norberg, Acting Chief of the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower, in a statement.
Meissner said that the award represents nearly the 30 percent maximum allowed under the SEC's bounty program for payments higher than $1 million and comprised more than 28 percent of the total penalty imposed on Monsanto.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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