FinCEN Whistleblower Awards

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Accepts Complaints from Whistleblowers Who Report Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Other Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Violations

Lynette Byrd
Attorney Lynette Byrd
FinCEN Whistleblower Award Team Lead
Former DOJ Attorneyenvelope iconContact Lynette
Nick Oberheiden
Attorney Nick Oberheiden
FinCEN Whistleblower Award Team Leadenvelope iconContact Nick
Tim Allen
Tim Allen
FinCEN Whistleblower Award Team
Former Secret Service (Digital Forensics Expert)
Brian Kuester
Attorney Brian Kuester
FinCEN Whistleblower Award Team
Former U.S. Attorney and District Attorneyenvelope iconContact Brian

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is a bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department. It is one of several federal authorities that accept whistleblower complaints, and it is one of only a handful of federal authorities that issue whistleblower awards. FinCEN handles whistleblower complaints under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), including primarily complaints involving anti-money laundering (AML) violations.

About FinCEN’s Whistleblower Award Program

FinCEN’s whistleblower award program has undergone (and, as of 2024, is continuing to undergo) a major overhaul in response to Congress’s amendment of the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AML Act) in 2020. While the AML Act spurred several changes, one of the most significant changes was to alter the process for determining FinCEN whistleblower awards. Under FinCEN’s outgoing whistleblower program regulations, the maximum whistleblower award was $150,000. Going forward, however, whistleblowers will be entitled to between 10 and 30 percent of any fines and other penalties FinCEN recovers in excess of $1 million.

This brings FinCEN’s whistleblower award program more in line with the other federal whistleblower award programs that are in place today. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) all calculate whistleblower awards as a percentage of the amount they recover as the result of a whistleblower’s complaint and assistance. This approach often results in significant whistleblower awards, with whistleblowers routinely receiving awards in excess of $1 million—and with many awards exceeding $10 million.

Put our highly experienced team on your side

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden

Founder

Attorney-at-Law

Lynette S. Byrd
Lynette S. Byrd

Former DOJ Trial Attorney

Partner

Brian J. Kuester
Brian J. Kuester

Former U.S. Attorney

Amanda Marshall
Amanda Marshall

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

John W. Sellers
John W. Sellers

Former Senior DOJ Trial Attorney

Linda Julin McNamara
Linda Julin McNamara

Federal Appeals Attorney

Aaron L. Wiley
Aaron L. Wiley

Former DOJ attorney

Local Counsel

Roger Bach
Roger Bach

Former Special Agent (DOJ)

Chris Quick
Chris J. Quick

Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)

Michael S. Koslow
Michael S. Koslow

Former Supervisory Special Agent (DOD-OIG)

Ray Yuen
Ray Yuen

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

When Whistleblower Complaints Filed with FinCEN Trigger Award Eligibility

But while the recent changes to FinCEN’s whistleblower award program bring the program more in line with other federal whistleblower programs in certain respects, there are still certain unique aspects that are important for prospective whistleblowers. For example, individuals who report AML violations and other violations of the Bank Secrecy Act internally may be eligible for FinCEN whistleblower awards—even if they do not also file a complaint with the bureau. Of course, as a practical matter, whistleblowers will still need to contact FinCEN in order to seek their awards, and working with an experienced whistleblower lawyer can be critical during this process.

The AML Act and FinCEN’s regulations also make clear that employees who serve in compliance roles may be eligible to receive whistleblower awards—even if they are required to report suspected violations as part of their job duties. However, those involved with preparing and filing Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) must be extremely careful, as unauthorized disclosure of information contained in an SAR (or even the existence of an SAR) violates federal law. Here, too, experienced legal representation is critical; and, if you are thinking about blowing the whistle and seeking a FinCEN whistleblower award, we strongly encourage you to speak with one of our lawyers before moving forward.

In all cases, FinCEN whistleblowers must report “original information” to become eligible for awards. Broadly, “original information” is material non-public information that is unknown to FinCEN (or, in the case of internal reporting, is unknown to those to whom the information is reported). This generally means that a whistleblower must be the first to come forward with information that is sufficient to justify a FinCEN investigation and potential civil or criminal enforcement.

Seeking a FinCEN Whistleblower Award: Tips for Bank Personnel and Other Prospective Whistleblowers

If you believe that you have original information about an AML violation or any other violation of the Bank Secrecy Act and are thinking about blowing the whistle, it is important that you make informed decisions and take appropriate action promptly. With this in mind, here are some important tips to consider:

  • You Must Be Very Careful About Copying or Removing Sensitive Records or Data – While this is true for all employees, it is especially true for employees of banks and other financial institutions. To ensure compliance with federal law and any applicable employment policies and procedures, you must be careful to ensure that you do not improperly copy or remove any sensitive records or data. Our lawyers can explain what you should (and shouldn’t) do when preparing to serve as a FinCEN whistleblower.
  • You Must Be Very Careful to Maintain SAR Compliance – As noted above, you must also be very careful to maintain SAR compliance. Improperly disclosing SAR information is a criminal offense that carries steep penalties. Our lawyers can assist you here as well.
  • You Must Ensure that You Report Your Concerns Through the Appropriate Channels – Whether you are considering filing a report internally or externally, you must ensure that you go through the appropriate channels. Regarding external reporting, FinCEN is one of several federal authorities that accept whistleblower complaints (and issue whistleblower awards), and contacting a different federal authority may be necessary in some cases.
  • The Amount of Your FinCEN Whistleblower Award Will Be Based, in Part, On the Amount of Assistance You Provide – If you become eligible to receive a FinCEN whistleblower award, the amount of your award will be based, in part, on the amount of assistance you provide. FinCEN whistleblower awards can range from 10 to 30 percent of the fines and other penalties recovered—and, the more assistance you provide, the larger your percentage should be.
  • You Should Talk to a Whistleblower Lawyer As Soon As Possible – To ensure that you take all of the necessary steps to protect yourself, properly report the original information you have in your possession, and establish your eligibility for a FinCEN whistleblower award, you should talk to a whistleblower lawyer as soon as possible. At Oberheiden P.C., we represent federal whistleblowers nationwide, and we provide our representation at no out-of-pocket cost.

FAQs: Seeking a FinCEN Whistleblower Compensation Award

Should I Report an AML Violation Internally or Externally to FinCEN?

Whether you should report an AML violation internally or externally to FinCEN depends on several factors. While reporting a violation internally may be the best course of action in certain circumstances (and can still entitle you to a FinCEN whistleblower award), reporting a violation directly to FinCEN will be the best course of action in some cases as well. When you engage the federal whistleblower team at Oberheiden P.C., our lawyers will help you make informed and strategic decisions about your next steps.

Are the Risks Involved with Reporting an AML Violation to FinCEN?

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against federal whistleblowers, and federal whistleblowers are entitled to confidentiality under the law. As a result, as long as you comply with the SAR rules and any other applicable prohibitions on disclosure, reporting an AML violation should not present risks for you individually as a whistleblower. This, however, assumes that you were not personally involved in the apparent violation that you are planning to report. If you are concerned about facing personal culpability, you will want to discuss your concerns with an experienced federal whistleblower lawyer promptly.

How Do I Apply for a FinCEN Whistleblower Award?

Filing a whistleblower complaint under the Anti-Money Laundering Act and Bank Secrecy Act is a unique process, as is applying for a FinCEN whistleblower award. Our lawyers can walk you through the process step-by-step, and we can work with FinCEN on your behalf.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Seek a FinCEN Whistleblower Award?

While hiring a lawyer to seek a FinCEN whistleblower award is not legally required, it is strongly recommended. At Oberheiden P.C., our lawyers not only help whistleblowers collect their compensation awards, but we also advise and assist our clients throughout the process of blowing the whistle and assisting with FinCEN’s investigative and enforcement efforts.

Additionally, if you disagree with FinCEN’s award determination—whether the bureau denies your award request or you disagree with its calculation of your award amount—you will have the option of filing an appeal. This is a formal legal process, and having experienced legal representation will be extremely important here as well.

What is the First Step for Blowing the Whistle with FinCEN?

If you are thinking about blowing the whistle with FinCEN and are interested in seeking a whistleblower award, your first step is to schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced federal whistleblower lawyer. At Oberheiden P.C., this costs you nothing, and we will maintain your identity and any information you share in strict confidence. Several of our lawyers have prior experience investigating and prosecuting Bank Secrecy Act violations at the U.S. Department of Justice, and we can use this experience to advise and represent you effectively.


Speak with a FinCEN Whistleblower Lawyer at Oberheiden P.C in Strict Confidence

If you need to know more about how to report an AML violation or any other violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, we invite you to get in touch. We can help you make informed decisions about your next steps, and we can work with FinCEN on your behalf if warranted. To schedule an appointment with a senior FinCEN whistleblower lawyer at Oberheiden P.C., please call 888-680-1745 or contact us confidentially online today.

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