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Do you have Original Information?

The Dodd Frank Whistleblower Law defines original information as information that is:

  • “Derived from the independent knowledge or analysis of a whistleblower"
  • "Not known to the SEC other than by the whistleblower as the original source of the information"
  • "Not exclusively derived from an allegation made in a judicial or administrative hearing, in a government report, hearing, audit, or investigation, or from the news media, unless a whistleblower is the source of the information.”

Original Information – Whistleblower must be the first to file

Perhaps one of the most critical parts of the definition of original information contained in the Dodd Frank Whistleblower Law is the concept that information about alleged securities fraud must be original to the SEC – not to the whistleblower.  This means for all practical purposes that if you are the hundredth person in your organization to learn of the facts that constitute alleged securities fraud, but you the first to submit this information to the SEC, then your information is deemed “original” to the SEC. 

Conversely, if you are the first to learn of the facts that may constitute securities fraud, and you disclose this information to anyone else, if that person files first your information is not considered “original” to the SEC, regardless of the fact that you told the whistleblower who relied on your information to file first!   A whistleblower therefore if motivated by a potential cash reward should contact a whistleblower attorney quickly and not disclose the underlying facts to any third party.

What Original Information is not

The concept of a whistleblower disclosing information to the SEC can be daunting and intimidating.  

  • Original Information does not mean “complete” information.  While it is always better to have as much documentation and information about alleged securities fraud as possible, a whistleblower does not need to have complete information.
  • Original Information does not mean “first hand” information.  Again, it is always better to have first hand knowledge of the facts that may constitute securities fraud, but it is not necessary. 
  • Original Information does not mean “earth shattering” information.   In fact, many of the facts that constitute alleged securities fraud are quite mundane. 
  • Original Information does not mean “confidential” information.  It may be a mistake to assume that it is too late to become a whistleblower because it is common knowledge within your circle of peers that information constituting potential securities fraud exists. 

A whistleblower attorney can certainly help you in determining whether the information in your possession is “original”

Original Information can be Public (in some situations)

The information a whistleblower provides to the SEC can in some situations already be in the public domain, as long as the information provided does not derive “exclusively” from the information in the public domain.