US regulator awards whistle-blower record $269m payout over benchmark rigging case

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – A US regulator on Thursday (Oct 21) doled out a record reward of nearly US$200 million (S$269.4 million) to a whistle-blower who had provided information for a case involving the rigging of crucial financial benchmarks, according to the agency and a law firm involved in the award.

The United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced the award in a statement on Thursday, but did not identify the recipient or disclose details about the case or the precise amount.

Law firm Kirby McInerney said in a statement that its client scored the record bounty after providing extensive information and documents in 2012 that “catalysed” investigations by the CFTC and a foreign regulator into benchmark manipulation.

An attorney for the law firm did not respond to requests for further comment or provide further details.

Over the past decade, the authorities globally have levied multibillion-dollar fines and pursued criminal charges against banks and traders for banding together to rig global benchmarks, most notoriously the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor).

US lawmakers recently passed legislation to keep the CFTC’s whistle-blower programme afloat. The Wall Street Journal reported in May that the agency’s whistle-blower programme was at risk due to a large expected payout to a former Deutsche Bank executive related to its US$2.5 billion Libor settlement.

A spokesman for the CFTC declined to comment, citing agency policy. A spokesman for Deutsche Bank did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

The amount, the largest ever for any government whistle-blower programme, was “mind-blowing”, Ms Erika Kelton, a lawyer with Phillips & Cohen LLP who has represented several whistle-blowers in the past, said in a statement.