SEC awards whistleblower $28 million in Panasonic Avionics Case

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said it awarded more than $28 million to a whistleblower whose tip helped them and the Justice Department launch investigations that led to bribery charges against a U.S. subsidiary of Japanese electronics company APanasonic Corp. and former executives. Lawyers representing the whistleblower said the award was connected to 2018 bribery settlements involving Panasonic Avionics Corp., a Lake Forest, Calif.-based unit of Panasonic that makes entertainment and communication systems for aircraft. The tipster, who isn’t a Panasonic employee, notified the SEC about alleged wrongdoing at the company in countries in Asia and Europe, prompting the regulator to open the investigation, according to the whistleblower’s lawyers, Christopher Connors of Connors Law Group LLC and Andy Rickman of Rickman Law Group LLP.

Under the SEC program, whistleblowers are entitled to between 10% and 30% of monetary penalties when their tips result in a successful enforcement action and when the penalties total more than $1 million.

The tipster in the Panasonic Avionics case received 10% of the monetary penalties collected from both the SEC and the Justice Department actions, according to documents viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The award “shows the SEC’s continued commitment to rewarding [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act] whistleblowers under the program,” Messrs. Connors and Rickman said in a statement, noting that this was the third SEC whistleblower award related to FCPA violations their clients received in the past few years.

A spokesman for Panasonic Avionics declined to comment. Representatives for Panasonic didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The chief executive of Panasonic Avionics said in 2018 that the company was pleased to have resolved the matter and had taken steps to improve its compliance program and internal controls. Panasonic said it disclosed the U.S. investigations to investors in February 2017.

Panasonic Avionics in April 2018 agreed to pay the SEC more than $143 million to resolve accusations that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and engaged in accounting fraud. The FCPA, a U.S. antibribery law, prohibits the use of bribes to foreign officials to win or keep business.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers nationwide. 617-823-3217 jnewman@newmanshapiro.com