This month, the USA's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has paid its largest award ever to an undisclosed whistle-blower who helped identify a presumably major securities law violation. Indeed, the reward amounted to 279 million USD.
The case being confidential, it is hard to judge the collaboration's value. But the incentive is pretty clear. What is easy is to wonder what would happen if instead of—or in addition to—exceptional awards, whistle-blowing was properly valued consistently. The SEC's own policy on awards is questionable, ignoring cases under 1 million USD in sanctions. For many people, the difference between no reward and a 200 000 USD reward may have more impact on their behavior than the difference between a 200 000 USD reward and a 279 million USD reward.
It's not easy to imagine that most of the 2022–2023 Pentagon document leaks could have been prevented with only 150 000 USD, had it been awarded early. How many hundreds of lives and tens of millions of dollars would such a reward have saved?