CFTC lures crypto whistleblowers with multimillion-dollar rewards

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has awarded a total of $16 million to whistleblowers this year, with the majority of these tips involving cryptocurrency cases.

Christy Goldsmith Romero, CFTC Commissioner, highlighted the prevalence of fraud and illegal activities in the cryptocurrency market in a statement published on the CFTC website.

The CFTC, which began paying disbursements to whistleblowers in 2012, said two whistleblowers received over $15 million for blowing the whistle in an unknown wrongdoing. The tipsters’ information and assistance led to successful enforcement actions by the federal agency. The specifics of these cases, however, were not disclosed by the CFTC.

Commissioner Romero highlighted the vital role whistleblowers play in detecting commodities fraud. Their contributions are crucial in uncovering fraudulent activities, interpreting evidence, and protecting consumers. Since the inception of the whistleblower program in 2014, the CFTC has disbursed $350 million, resulting in enforcement sanctions exceeding $3 billion.

“The majority of the tips received this year involved crypto – an area that continues to have pervasive fraud and other illegality. With the rise of crypto, more retail customers have come under the CFTC’s jurisdiction, making even more critical the efforts of the CFTC’s Whistleblower Program and the Office of Customer Education and Outreach,” Romero added.

Kristin Johnson, another CFTC commissioner, has called on whistleblowers within the crypto industry to step forward, saying they previously received millions of dollars for their help. She also marked the importance of whistleblowers in enforcement, given the often-opaque nature of the crypto world. She assured informants of anonymity and reiterated the big rewards that have been previously granted to individuals who provided critical information.

The whistleblower could even get a higher bounty as he submitted a payout claim in connection with a third related action by a state regulator, as long as the informant was eligible for an award in the underlying CFTC action. However, the US regulators consider several factors in determining the size of whistleblower awards. As long as their internal disclosure prompted a company investigation, they can benefit from all the information discovered in that investigation.

The news follows closely on the heels of the CFTC’s lawsuit against Stephen Ehrlich, the former CEO of the now-bankrupt crypto lender Voyager Digital. The regulator concluded that Stephen Ehrlich violated derivatives regulations by misleading customers about the safety of their assets before the crypto lender filed for bankruptcy last year.