When someone “blows the whistle” on a securities fraud situation or similar crime, they are initially granted the protection of the SEC. The Commission does its best to conceal the names of people who report serious crimes, but is not able to eternally keep the names under wraps.

The way the SEC views the situation, it’s best to have at least some level of identity protection for potential whistleblowers. Such protection is a way of encouraging people to come forward and report securities crimes without fear of reprisal, like job loss or personal vendettas.

The system in not foolproof, though, because there are numerous situations that can lead to a whistleblower’s name being divulged—either to courts, law enforcement agencies, or other government agencies. For its part, the SEC notes on its website that the Commission “is committed to protecting your identity to the fullest extent possible.”

Potential whistleblowers should know that they must affirmatively indicate their wish to join the whistleblower program by checking the appropriate box on the SEC’s Form-TCR, either online or on the hard-copy version.

How Identity Protection Works

When the SEC whistleblower statutes were created, certain provisions were included to minimize the revelation of the names of whistleblowers. In many cases, names are not directly revealed. However, due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the SEC might have to divulge the names of whistleblowers.

How Names Might Be Revealed

These circumstances arise when there is a court or administrative proceeding that requires the whistleblower’s name be provided. At other times, the SEC might have to conduct an investigation of a matter and use the information the whistleblower provided. The very use of this information can indirectly reveal the identity of the whistleblower in many cases.

There are other situations when the SEC might be forced, via a court order or routine investigatory procedures, to reveal a whistleblower’s name to other government agencies. At that point, the name is no longer subject to all the protections that it was before going outside the SEC.

A whistleblower cannot be assured of the same level of anonymity when his or her name has been disseminated to multiple government agencies, law enforcement authorities, or courts. The “cat is out of the bag,” so to speak, in situations like these.

What to Do if You Want to Protect Your Identity

If you fear that your identity is about to be revealed or has been revealed due to carelessness or negligence on the part of the SEC, you would be advised to hire an SEC whistleblower lawyer. Attorneys who have experience in this field know how to best protect the interests of whistleblowers, how to prevent further revelations about their identities, and how to win compensation from the SEC if their identity was revealed through carelessness or bad intent.

Regardless of the type of crime a whistleblower has reported to the SEC, maintaining anonymity can be a challenge in the best of circumstances. Hiring a professional who knows how to navigate the complicated environment of identity protection for whistleblowers is imperative.