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CFTC Strengthens Protections for Whistleblowers

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) on Monday approved amendments to its Whistleblower Rules that will, among other things, strengthen anti-retaliation protections and enhance the process for reviewing whistleblower claims.

In a unanimous vote, amendments were approved allowing the CFTC or whistleblowers to bring actions against employers for retaliation against whistleblowers, and prohibiting employers from taking steps to impede would-be whistleblowers from communicating directly with CFTC staff about possible violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) by using a confidentiality, pre-dispute arbitration or similar agreement.

"The Whistleblower Program is an integral part of the division's efforts to identify and prosecute unlawful conduct," said CFTC’s James McDonald, director of the Division of Enforcement. "The Commission's approval of these rules today will further strengthen and enhance our efforts to protect customers and promote market integrity."

In addition to strengthening anti-retaliation protections, the new amendments would add efficiency and transparency to the process of deciding whistleblower award claims and harmonize CFTC's rules with those of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's whistleblower program, CFTC said.

The amended rules establish a claims review process which would use a claims review staff in place of the Whistleblower Award Determination Panel to consider and issue preliminary determinations as to whether an award claim should be granted or denied. Whistleblowers would then have the opportunity to request to view the record and may contest the preliminary determination before the CFTC issues a final determination.

The amendments also make changes to other key areas, including whistleblower eligibility requirements, and make clear that, with limited exceptions, whistleblowers may receive awards in covered actions, related actions, or both.

And the amendments authorize the Whistleblower Office to handle facially ineligible award claims that do not relate to notices of covered actions, final judgments in related actions, or a previously filed Form TCRs (Tip, Complaint or Referral).

The amended rules are to go into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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