The Securities and Exchange Commission gave final approval yesterday on rules that would pay tipsters for information about bankers breaking federal securities laws. Let's imagine this in Oliver North terms. At the end of the movie Wall Street, Bud Fox sacrifices his own innocence in order to bust Gordon Gecko with a secret wiretap that he hands over to the Feds, condemning Gecko to years in prison for securities fraud. With these new SEC laws, Bud could've gotten a check for blowing the whistle instead of a measly pat on the back from Martin Sheen. It's worth pointing out that it would not have been a small check. Employees-turned-whistleblowers could pocket as much as 30 percent of any money over $1 million seized by regulators in enforcing the law.
The seeming positive gesture for justice sounds like a slap in the face of another set of employees blowing the whistle on internal misbehavior. As we detailed earlier this week, the administration has been quietly waging war on whistleblowers within the federal government. Former National Security Agency Thomas Drake could face as much as 35 years in prison under the Espionage Act of 1917 for leaking information about bloated budgets in the NSA to a Baltimore Sun reporter. Former FBI agent Shamai Leibowitz will spend 20 months in prison for leaking classified information on "communication intelligence activities" to a blogger. And Bradley Manning, the 23 year-old Army private, was arrested for allegedly downloading documents that ended up on WikiLeaks. He's been detained for a year now, including ten months in solitary confinement. One activist is currently suing the federal government for breaking its own rules.