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Holder Urges Bigger Rewards For Wall Street Whistleblowers

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In this country, we're tracking the effort to find fraud in the financial sector. The government depends on whistleblowers for information. Attorney General Eric Holder wants more Wall Street whistleblowers and says, the government should offer more reward money to get them. Here's NPR's Jim Zarroli.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Holder has been criticized for not pursuing criminal cases against individuals who helped cause the 2008 financial crisis. In a speech at New York University Law School yesterday afternoon, Holder said, it was easier to build such cases when an insider at a firm sees crime and reports it as it's happening. But Holder said, many people are reluctant to do that because in most cases, federal law caps the amount of money that can be paid to whistleblowers at $1.6 million. He said, that's a paltry sum in an industry where median executive pay is $26 million.

U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER: What would be, by any normal standard, considered a windfall - that's unlikely to induce an employee to his or her lucrative career in the financial sector.

ZARROLI: Holder said, raising the reward would encourage more insiders to cooperate with investigations.

HOLDER: This could significantly improve the Justice Department's ability to gather evidence of wrongdoing while complex financial crimes are still in progress.

ZARROLI: But raising the reward for whistleblowers would mean changing a 1989 law that's been used to prosecute many financial fraud cases. And with the current gridlock in Washington, it's not clear Congress is ready to do that anytime soon. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.