SEC Charges CBRE, Inc. with Violating Whistleblower Protection Rule
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced that it has settled charges against CBRE, Inc., a subsidiary of CBRE Group, Inc. - a prominent Dallas-based commercial real estate services and investment firm. The charges stem from CBRE's use of an employee release that the SEC has found to be in violation of the whistleblower protection rule.
According to the SEC's order, CBRE had a practice in place between 2011 and 2022. As part of this practice, CBRE required its employees to sign a release as a condition for receiving separation pay. In this release, employees were required to attest that they had not filed any complaints against CBRE with any federal agency. The SEC asserts that this condition imposed by CBRE on separation pay had the effect of obstructing potential whistleblowers from reporting their complaints to the Commission.
Once the SEC initiated an investigation into CBRE's practices, the company cooperated fully with the Commission's staff. CBRE took extensive remedial action, including the revision of all versions of its domestic releases and similar agreements to ensure compliance with the whistleblower protection rule. Furthermore, CBRE communicated directly with more than 800 employees who had previously signed the release. The communication aimed to clarify the protections afforded to these employees under the rule, including their right to communicate directly with SEC staff regarding potential violations of federal securities laws.
Eric Werner, Regional Director of the SEC's Fort Worth Office, emphasized the significance of employees' ability to communicate with SEC staff about potential violations of federal securities laws without compromising their financial interests or the confidentiality protections of the SEC's whistleblower program. He commended CBRE for its rapid and comprehensive remediation efforts and its high level of cooperation with SEC staff throughout the process.
CBRE has consented to the SEC's order without admitting or denying the findings. As part of the settlement, CBRE has agreed to cease and desist from committing or causing any violations of the whistleblower protection rule. Additionally, the company will pay a civil penalty of $375,000.
The SEC's decision to accept CBRE's settlement offer considered the company's cooperation and remedial actions, reflecting the terms of the resolution.
This case highlights the SEC's commitment to enforcing whistleblower protection rules and ensuring that employees can report potential violations of federal securities laws without facing undue obstacles or retaliation. It also underscores the importance of timely and comprehensive remediation efforts by companies found to be in violation of such rules.