Janice Shell likes to sniff out fraud. An art historian by training, she once spent her days digging through Renaissance archives in Italy. Now 74, retired and living in suburban Philadelphia, she pores over financial filings instead. She hunts for sketchy penny stocks, then flags them in tart commentaries on message boards such as Investorshub.com. Shell has been remarkably prescient. In several cases, the US Securities and Exchange Commission later sanctioned companies she’d called out—and for the same reasons.
The SEC runs a whistleblower program that would seem perfect for Shell. If investigators bring a successful case based on information sent their way, the informant can keep 10% to 30% of any money recovered as a reward. Over the years, Shell figures she’s sent in a dozen tips. But she stopped about seven years ago, because she never heard back. “It’s such a nuisance when you know they aren’t going to get to it this year—and maybe not ever,” she says.
Her gripe is typical of those who alert the SEC…. Out of 60,000 tips sent its way, fewer than 300 have resulted in awards.
‘Enforcement 40’ for 2020
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